Twenty minutes. In hockey, that's the length of a period but it's so much more than that. It's an eternity when your team is struggling and gone in a flash when they have it clicking. Tonight, it was a little of both as the Coyotes formed two different narratives in two different 20 minute blocks.
The first story was a horror show, as the Coyotes played an embarrassing second period that had Coyotes fans drinking even more than might have on this Saint Patrick's Day. After taking a 2-1 lead into the period, the Coyotes found themselves down 3-2 exiting it and were lucky that it was even that close. The Kings dominated every bit of play in the second stanza, outshooting the Coyotes 15-3 and holding the Coyotes without a shot over the final 15:35 of the period. Mike Smith made big play after big play, and despite giving up a goal on an Alec Martinez one timer from a hard angle, kept the Coyotes afloat and in the game until Michael Stone hauled down Anze Kopitar below the goal line late in the second. The Kings capitalized and Marian Gaborik was left all alone in the low slot and his shot deflected off Derek Morris' stick past Smith to give Los Angeles the lead with 1:41 left in the second.
Given the horrible play they exhibited in the second and Los Angeles' perfect 21-0-0 record when leading after two periods on the season, the Coyotes' outlook looked grim. But the great thing about sports is that you always have time to make something happen, and in this case, Phoenix had 20 more minutes to alter the narrative again.
The Coyotes began to play actual hockey and benefited from an early tripping penalty on the Kings' Justin Williams. Keith Yandle and Mike Ribeiro both were able to walk into slapshots on loose pucks but both were turned away with amazing saves from Jonathan Quick. The Coyotes would get three shots on this particular advantage, equaling their output for the entire second period.
Phoenix earned another power play on a dumb goaltender interference penalty from Kyle Clifford, but couldn't deliver the equalizer as Quick made more big saves, matching Smith's play from earlier in the night. The Kings would get a power play chance of their own after David Moss was tagged with a goaltender interference call of his own, but the Coyotes' penalty kill came through on this occasion. Shortly after the kill, the Coyotes would tie the game.
The puck would make it's way to Keith Yandle's stick on the blueline. Yandle walked the line and unleashed a slapshot that Quick caught in his glove, but couldn't hold as it squirted out and into the net, knotting things at three with 10:26 left in the period. Getting a point from this game would have been nice but the Coyotes weren't done adding to the comeback story of the season.
As time ticked down past the four minute mark, the puck ended up on Jeff Halpern's stick with an open net. He got the shot off and Quick appeared to make an acrobatic save that left a rebound in front of the crease. Doan pounced on it and was absolutely robbed by Quick as he swung his stick behind his head. After a whistle moments later, the play was reviewed and the replay showed that Halpern's initial shot indeed crossed the goal line before Quick got to it, giving the Coyotes a good goal with 3:05 left in the third. Mike Smith made four save in the final minutes and Zbynek Michalek blocked two shots and the Coyotes closed the door on a 4-3 victory, handing the Kings their first defeat on the season when leading after two periods.
With the win, the Coyotes leapfrogged the idle Stars to take sole position of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference and are now only three points behind the Wild for the seventh spot and five points behind the Kings for third in the Pacific division.
- For the Kings' perspective, check out Jewels from the Crown.
- Here are the advanced stats via extraskater.com. The Kings dominated this game with Corsi and Fenwick numbers both near 60. But the two points ended up coming back to Phoenix. 21-1-0.
- L.A. outshot the Coyotes 39-27, including the aforementioned 15-3 second period whooping.
- The Coyotes got first period goals from Rob Klinkhammer and Mikkel Boedker. The Kings first goal was scored by Tanner Pearson.
- Both teams were one for four on the man advantage.
- The Kings dominated the face-off circles, winning 37 of 69 draws (54%). Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and Jeff Carter were all above 50% efficiency in the circle, while Martin Hanzal was the game's best face-off performer, winning 9 of 14 (64%) draws in his return to the lineup. 21-1-0
- Drew Doughty was a beast on the night, leading all players with 26:53 of ice time and creating chance after chance all night long. If the Coyotes hadn't come back, he would have been the number one star. Oliver Ekman-Larsson led all Coyotes with 26:22.
- Again, 21-1-0.
Our Three Stars
- Keith Yandle - The Coyotes leading scorer continued his torrid post-Olympic pace with the game tying goal and an assist. He played 23:09 and led all players with six shots on goal.
- Mike Smith - Super Smitty continued his second half renaissance with another spectacular effort. He stopped 36 of 39 shots (.923 SV%). If not for Smith, the Coyotes could have been looking at a three or four goal deficit after the second period.
- Jonathan Quick - Quick only stopped 23 of 27 shots, but he made some huge save in the third period, including his wizard-like stick save on Shane Doan that technically never happened now. 21-1-0
Comment of the Night
There are two tonight. Both after the win was official, one because it's funny and one because it's awesome.
take that Wil Wheaton
Here's the next one:
um... EVEN BETTER! Than just 1st loss of season when leading after 2
Entering tonight, @LAKings were 126-1-11 in last 138 reg. season games when leading after 2. The #Coyotes changed that. #HungrierThanEver
— Phoenix Coyotes (@phoenixcoyotes) March 18, 2014
The Coyotes return to Glendale to begin a two game homestand against recent eastcoast foes. They will face the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at 7pm. The Coyotes current playoff position may not be the same on Thursday, so every game the rest of the way is huge.