When the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets first met this season, the visiting Jets left Glendale with a 6-2 victory. It was the start of a very lackluster first half of the season for the Coyotes.
Arizona's fortunes have turned around just slightly as of late, as the Coyotes are still not where they want to be in the standings. Despite that, the Coyotes, and their fans, can nod off tonight with smiles on their faces after Arizona avenged its opening night loss with a 4-1 victory over the Jets Thursday night.
"We certainly had a better effort tonight," head coach Dave Tippett said of his team's performance compared to Tuesday's game against the St. Louis Blues. "Our goaltender was excellent, our special teams were very strong...we were just way more competitive tonight and we need to do that night in and night out."
Special teams were the story of the game. The Coyotes successfully converted on three of their five power play attempts, while the Jets failed time and time again to convert on numerous man advantages, seven to be exact, including two 5-on-3 opportunities.
"As big as the power play goals were early, the kill was even more important because we were able to continue to play with the lead," Tippett said.
Despite having the league's worst penalty kill entering the game, the Coyotes found a way to shore up defensively and kill off all Winnipeg's advantages.
"Our penalty kill did a great job, for the most part, letting me see shots and not letting them get to too many rebounds" Mike Smith said. "That recipe is successful."
The Coyotes started strong, scoring twice in the game's first 3:18 and setting the tone for the game to come. Mikkel Boedker, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan found the back of the net during various power plays to push the Coyotes out in front and give them a lead they would never relinquish.
However, goaltending had just as much to do with Arizona's 16th win of the season.
Smith, dejected but optimistic after a 6-0 setback Tuesday night, had a stellar night in net. He stopped all but one of 35 shots on a night when the Jets got physical with him on more than one occasion. The win was Smith's second in his last three starts.
"I felt good," Smith said. "Over the last couple weeks I've really turned the corner. Got a little swagger back in my game, so it's nice to get rewarded tonight."
It didn't hurt that the Coyotes provided Smith with a little offense.
After not scoring for 60 minutes against the Blues, the Coyotes lit the lamp twice early. Two power play chances gave the Coyotes all the spark they needed to get back on track.
Boedker found the scoresheet for the first time since Dec. 6 and the 10th time this season, wristing an Antoine Vermette pass top shelf through traffic to open the scoring. Arizona's power play remained hot on its next opportunity, needing only eight seconds to successfully convert.
Unbeknownst to the Jets, Ekman-Larsson slowly snuck down the backside of the defense soon after a faceoff and smacked home a Doan pass for his 11th goal of the season.
"You get one on the power play early and things start to feel a little bit better," Doan said. "Obviously getting the second one was great. Getting it early, kind of getting some momentum and having control of the game and playing more the way we want to play."
Before the early offensive outburst, Winnipeg allowed just eight power play goals on the road all season.
After Winnipeg failed to score on a pair of 5-on-3 chances late in the first period, the Coyotes showed them how it was done late in the second.
The only active player who played for the first incarnation of the Jets, Doan, scored his ninth goal of the season by cleaning up the garbage in the crease off a Michael Stone rebound just as Arizona's 5-on-3 advantage expired.
Winnipeg found a little life in the third period, scoring the period's opening goal.
Mathieu Perreault potted his 10th of the season, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence, during a delayed penalty, that ended with the shutout-breaking goal. The Jets continued the pressure until Boedker scored his second of the night to give the Coyotes some breathing room.
Speed kills and Boedker has plenty to burn. He flew around Jets defenseman Jay Harrison, then waited out goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, en route to his second goal of the game and 11th of the season.
"Tremendous goal at the perfect time of the game," Smith said.
The Coyotes never looked back.
Arizona hopes to build on this victory during the final two games of their season-long homestand.
- Winnipeg's perspective: Arctic Ice Hockey
- The Coyotes are 5-0-1 this season when scoring multiple power play goals
- Ekman-Larsson has a league-leading (defensemen) eight goals since Dec. 1
- Boedker leads the team in home points with 16 (9-7-16)
- Thursday's game was Doan's second three-point game of the season
- The win was Arizona's first against the Central Division after starting the season 0-8-3
- Attendance: 11,390
The Coyotes play game four of their six-game homestand on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m. (note the special start time).