Arizona played a vintage hockey game, complete with depth contributors, solid defense, and a blown third period lead, ultimately resulting in a 3-2 shootout victory. The win ends a ten game losing streak.
"We had to play well to do that. The relief is in seeing guys playing well." said Head Coach Dave Tippett after the game.
The hockey gods looked favorably upon the Coyotes early in the game, as Arizona got plenty of early zone time thanks to a power play and some solid forechecking. They even had a two-on-one shorthanded bid, but Shane Doan was denied by a patient Eddie Lack. That would be the best scoring chance of a four minute double-minor called on Sam Gagner, as the Coyotes were aggressive in the neutral zone.
After several missed opportunities, Arizona would finally find twine with just a minute left in the first. Sam Gagner took a shot that hit Lack and fell to the crease. Tobias Rieder was able to lift the puck over Lack's shoulder to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead that they would carry into intermission.
Vancouver got the better of play early in the second period, but Mike Smith looked like Nikolai Khabibulin, Sean Burke, Ilya Bryzgalov, and his 2011-12 self by making save after save. His teammates appreciated the great effort from Smitty.
"Smitty was standing on his head all game." Tobias Rieder said after the game ended.
Vancouver would continue to tilt the ice in the second, thoroughly outshooting (10-2) and out-Corsi-ing (24-7) the Coyotes. The fireworks would not be limited to shots on net, as Luca Sbisa took a run at Rieder with 2:25 remaining in the second. Connor Murphy took exception, and the two dropped the gloves for a spirited, if brief, bout. No further score after two periods of play.
Arizona started off the third period strong. B.J. Crombeen and Joe Vitale created a scrum in front of the net. Tye McGinn took a shot that just barely deflected off of Crombeen's skate to hit the top corner stick-side to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead at 2:31 of the third.
The Coyotes would get a couple of good chances in on Lack after the Crombeen goal between Craig Cunningham and David Moss, but neither were able to convert.
Down the stretch, the Canucks would climb back in to the game. Jannik Hansen took a shot at Smith, and Higgins would backhand the rebound in at 12:21 of the third to cut the lead in half. Vancouver would climb all the way back with the extra skater. Radim Vrbata took a shot on net that Smith was unable to find. While sprawled, the puck squirted over the line at 19:06 to tie the game.
Arizona would go to overtime in a game that they by all rights ought to have won in regulation. Both Shane Doan and Tobias Rieder had glorious breakaway chances turned aside by Lack in the extra frame. The Coyotes would dominate the pace of play in overtime, but the Canucks' goalie would not be beaten.
For Doan, the stop by Lack would mark a game filled with frustrating near scoring chances.
"I don't know when one is going to go in. Hopefully soon." Doan said after the game.
Coach Tippett was less concerned about the inability to capitalize in the extra frame.
"We did a drill in practice yesterday: a five puck breakaway relay. Obviously we need to keep doing it." Tippett joked. "Great chances, but that's the way it goes."
In the shootout, Sam Gagner would ring the puck off the post and in. Nick Bonino could not answer for the Canucks. Mark Arcobello lost the handle, while Radim Vrbata rang his attempt off the post after opting against his signature forehand-backhand. Doan would miss his attempt, and Chris Higgins would send it over the top to give the Coyotes a 3-2 win in the shootout.
The win on Throwback Night was a huge lift for both the fans and the players.
"It's a great feeling, it's a long time coming." Sam Gagner commented. "It's a huge weight off of our shoulders to get one here tonight."
Our Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star - Sam Gagner: Recorded an assist and the shootout winning goal.
2nd Star - Chris Higgins: His third period goal changed the momentum of the game and put Vancouver in position to tie the score, which they did.
1st Star - Mike Smith: Despite giving up two goals in the third, Smith came up with 32 saves on 34 shots, including some great ones when the team needed them.
- For Vancouver's perspective, be sure to check out Nucks Misconduct
- No lineup changes from last night's game, which means Brandon Gormley sits out once again
- Both of the Coyotes' points leaders in calendar year 2015, Sam Gagner and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, recorded assists on the Rieder goal.
- B.J. Crombeen had to wait a while before getting credit for the goal; it was originally given to Klas Dahlbeck before being changed mid-game to McGinn. Crombeen would be given credit after the game ended.
- Mike Smith's last shutout was March 4th, 2014. It was against the Vancouver Canucks at home. He still has yet to record a shutout on the season.
- Final shot totals: Vancouver 34, Arizona 35
- Attendance: 12,589
Arizona is back in action Saturday night versus the Montreal Canadiens. Puck drops at 5 PM Arizona time.