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New Jersey Devils vs Phoenix Coyotes recap: fourth line fortunes

The Phoenix Coyotes defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Saturday night.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

In a night of crazy starts and crazy finishes in the NHL, the Phoenix Coyotes avoided the drama by taking an early lead and never relinquishing it.

Phoenix's power play scored for the seventh consecutive game, its fourth line contributed two goals and the Coyotes earned their first two-game winning streak since Dec. 10 and 12.

The Coyotes have been the definition of inconsistent over the last month. That appeared to change in the third period of Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Blues, and carried over in the two games since.

"Usually to win consecutive games you have to play well consecutive games. So, that's a positive for us," coach Dave Tippett said.

Commitment to blocking shots, 36 in the last two games including 26 on Saturday, has helped the Coyotes get back on track.

"Winning teams are teams that block shots and do whatever it takes to win," the game's first goal scorer Jordan Szwarz said. "It was a greasy, greasy win."

Tippett described the game as a track meet, especially late in the third period with the Yotes clinging to a two-goal lead. Phoenix made things interesting by giving up one goal, but then shut the door, in no small part because of blocks by Antoine Vermette and Lauri Korpikoski, for the 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

"It was exciting for fans," Martin Hanzal joked. "We made some mistakes, but that's what happens sometimes."

The mistakes that weren't stopped by sprawling bodies wearing Sedona red, were cleaned up by their goaltender.

Mike Smith followed his stellar shutout performance against Vancouver with a 33-save night against the Devils. Smith earned his 17th victory of the season and his second in a row after losing his previous seven decisions.

Phoenix struck early on Tuesday en route to a 1-0 victory, and opened the scoring for the second game in a row on Saturday.

Kyle Chipchura's strong forecheck behind the net loosened up the puck down low before centering it to a waiting Szwarz. Szwarz smacked home the one-timer for his third goal of the season. He would briefly leave the game later on after being cut in the face by a skate.

Martin Brodeur made a pair of highlight reel saves in the first period on Shane Doan and Keith Yandle to keep New Jersey's deficit to one. However, Brodeur had trouble with an innocent looking wrist shot minutes later.

Seconds after the Coyotes' second power play expired, Jeff Halpern extended Phoenix's lead to two with a wrist shot from the faceoff circle that beat Brodeur far side.

"I can't really say that I placed (the shot)," Halpern joked. "I couldn't even tell you where it went in."

Phoenix's fourth line contributed the opening two goals, a New Jersey depth forward would score the next one.

Ryane Clowe plotted his second goal of the season, 18 seconds into the Devils' first power play. The 31-year-old scooped up a rebound to Smith's left and halved the Coyotes' lead.

The Devils dominated the first half of the second period but could not put one past Smith. Even a misadventure behind the net that left the Coyotes crease vacated and the puck in New Jersey's possession wasn't enough for them to tie the game. It would come back to bite them.

With Marek Zidlicky in the box for high-sticking, Hanzal scored his 14th of the season to extend Phoenix's lead to two. Hanzal tipped a Yandle shot and took a second whack at the puck in the crease before it trickled over the goal line for the eventual game-winning goal.

Former teammate of Tippett and current genetic marvel Jaromir Jagr brought the Devils within one with his goalie pulled and 2:14 remaining in the game.

The Coyotes salted away the remainder of the game and met at center ice to lift their sticks in the air as a tribute to the crowd for the second time in three nights.

Victory means two more points for the Coyotes as they begin their climb back up the standings.

Paw Prints

  • New Jersey's perspective
  • Advanced game stats
  • Szwarz said after the game that the cut on his face needed 10 or 11 stitches.
  • Derek Morris led all players with six blocked shots.
  • The Coyotes took only two penalties in this game, a vast improvement from the last few games.
  • Phoenix held on in the third period as they were outshot 11-2.
  • Attendance: 14,005

Our Three Stars of the Game

1. Martin Hanzal - Game-winning goal and an assist.

2. Keith Yandle - A pair of assists including a primary assist on Hanzal's PPG.

3. Mike Smith - Stopped 33-of-35 shots for another solid showing.

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes take the ice for the final game of their three-game homestand on Monday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Special MLK Day start time of 6 p.m.