Yet again the Phoenix Coyotes found themselves unable to finish a game in regulation. This time they finished it in a shootout.
Mike Smith stuffed all three Tampa Bay Lightning shooters and Radim Vrbata netted the game winner as the Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. The Coyotes' win put them within one point of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference behind the Dallas Stars.
Head coach Dave Tippett opted to go with youth over experience in this game, inserting call-ups Andy Miele and Brandon Gormley into the lineup in place of Rob Klinkhammer and Derek Morris, respectively. The Coyotes also decided to change things up by letting Tampa score first; sensational rookie Tyler Johnson broke in shorthanded and took advantage of Keith Yandle slipping and falling to beat Smith.
The 1-0 Tampa lead would hold until 1:01 in the second, when Brandon McMillan gobbled up a rebound off a Keith Yandle slapshot and just managed to nudge it past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop to tie the game. That score would hold for much of the second until Ondrej Palat managed to get his stick on a loose puck in the crease that Mike Smith probably should have just covered at 19:07. The Coyotes closed out the period without any further damage done.
Phoenix looked determined to not let this game slip away. In the third, Martin Erat got his first goal as a Coyote and only his second of the year thanks to a Victor Hedman play off the boards that bounced a little too far out. Bishop had already been moving over to cover the other side of the net, so Erat had little trouble putting home the puck. Mikkel Boedker would score five minutes later by taking a rebound from Antoine Vermette and beating a down and out Ben Bishop. It was the Coyotes' first lead of the game.
But this is the 2013-14 Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes and 3rd period leads go together about as well as Garth Snow and competent general manager decisions do. Sure enough, ndrej Palat managed to get his stick on a loose puck in the crease that Mike Smith probably should have just covered at 19:22. If that sounds familiar, it's because I literally just copy-pasted the first goal description here. They were that similar.
This time around however, Phoenix did themselves a favor by not coughing up the game tying goal too early in the third, so they managed to get a point out of overtime. With no goals being scored in the five minutes of extra play, the teams went to a shootout. Mike Smith made a several excellent saves, and Radim Vrbata brought back his signature move to beat Bishop for the only goal in the skills competition.
Our Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star - Michael Stone - Stone played 23:44 and blocked five shots in the game. They need these kinds of performances from their depth defensemen.
2nd Star - Ondrej Palat - Two devastating late period goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning came off this guy's stick. At just 22 years old, he has a bright future in the NHL.
1st Star - Antoine Vermette - Vermette had a customary night for this season: got an assist, blocked a shot, played on both special teams, and won 62% of his faceoffs. You know, the usual.
- Brandon Gormley, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, made his long awaited debut in a Coyotes sweater. Though he played the fewest minutes of any defenseman (13:22), he blocked a pair of shots.
- The Coyotes only took four penalties in this game, and killed off every single one of them. The power play unfortunately surrendered a goal of its own.
- Keith Yandle now has 37 assists on the year. His career high is 48 back in the 2010-11 season.
- Phoenix would be outshot in all but the 3rd period, in which they tied Tampa with eight shots apiece. The final shot totals were 31-20.
- The Lightning look to have a bright future, as Ondrej Palat's two tallies tonight give him 17 on the year. With 42 points, he ought to be getting some looks for the Calder Trophy.
- Rookie Tyler Johnson's shortie tonight was his fourth shorthanded goal on the season and 20th overall. He is third on the team in points, behind Valtteri Filppula and the aforementioned Palat.
- Steven Stamkos played 23:31 after making his return last week from a hideous leg injury suffered earlier this year in Boston. He registered no points and had a pair of shots.
- The Coyotes balanced their ice-time quite nicely ahead of tomorrow night's game in Florida. All but Kyle Chipchura played 10 minutes or more, and the most any forward played was Antoine Vermette with 20:42.
The Coyotes will look to build on this victory when they take on The Greatest Show on Twitter, Roberto Luongo. Oh, and the Florida Panthers. Puck drops at 4:30 PM Arizona time, so make whatever excuses you need to get off work early and get in front of a TV.