Phoenix Coyotes hockey
Coyotes cool off red-hot Red Wings
The Phoenix Coyotes picked up all three of their goals on the power play and took a 1-0 series lead with a 3-2 win over the red-hot Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday night.
Phoenix, with a 21-7-2 record over their last 30 regular season games, headed into the home opener of in the best of seven series with confidence. The team is making their first playoff appearance since 2002 while claiming the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
“We played hard and we have room to improve,” said Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, who tied the game at 1 at the 14:13 mark of the first period. “I think we did a pretty good job working hard and doing the little things right. I think our coaches and management did an unbelievable job of getting the guys we needed to get in here.
“You get a guy like Derek Morris back, who’s been here and he’s a great veteran defenseman. We brought in a bunch of great guys and they gelled even better here in the locker room, so it is a pleasure to have them.”
Morris, who assisted on both goals, fed his defensive partner Yandle a pass at the top of the offensive zone that he corralled before firing a shot that went through Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard's legs for the first Coyote goal.
Phoenix compiled a 50-25-7 record, good for 107 points and set franchise records for wins, home wins (29) and points in a single season.
Trading in chemistry
Trades can break up a chemistry of a team and it can also help teams make late runs and have their most successful season in franchise history.
For the Coyotes, the latter happened and they put together a seven-game home win streak to end the regular season.
As the trade deadline loomed this year, the Coyotes brought in several new faces to the locker room, including defenseman Morris – who had played for the Coyotes from 2005 to 2009 – from the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.
“The win is the important part that we want,” said Morris, who scored the game winner 2:19 into the third period directly off the faceoff. “I came over when things were good and they were in a good spot. This team established themselves and it was nice to win some more games and get home ice.”
Morris received the faceoff pass from Matthew Lombardi and fired a shot from in between the face-off circles that beat Howard on the stick side.
Wojtek Wolski, another player picked up at the trade deadline, coming over from the Colorado Avalanche, tied the game in the second period, 2-2, on the power play after getting a pass from Yandle across the ice and ripped a quick shot into the open net from the left faceoff circle while on one knee.
The Red Wings have opened the last 17 years at home, but on the road, they had to deal with rowdy Coyotes fans dressed in white, a tradition that dates back to when the team was still the Winnipeg Jets.
Detroit, who finished fifth in the conference after finishing the season 16-3-2 after the Olympic Break, opened the scoring when Tomas Holmstrom put a shot by Ilya Bryzgalov from the top of the left circle at 12:17 of the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead.
“Tonight’s game was no different than I expected,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought it was going to be a good game, well played, lots of tempo. I don’t think there were any surprises for us.”
After Yandle tied the game, the Red Wings retook the lead, 2-1, late in the first.
Nicklas Lidstrom, playing in his 236th playoff game, torched a slapshot from just inside the blue line with a little over three and half minutes left in the first that went past Ilya Bryzgalov.
“We knew they were going to come out and I thought we responded really well,” said Lidstrom, who tied former Edmonton Oiler and New York Ranger Mark Messier on the all-time postseason games played list.
“I thought we moved the puck really well. We did play well in the final five (minutes) of the game and we did get the power play going early on, but you have to sustain that pressure and get scoring chances when you have opportunities.”
While the last four of the goals of the game were scored on the power play, this is the time of the season when the penalty kill unit has to be at their best.
Detroit ranked tenth in the NHL with a penalty kill percentage of 83.9. The Coyotes ranked sixth, killing off 84.5 percent of the penalties.
“They had a couple of power plays early,” Morris said. “I think they probably had ten shots on their power plays in the first period. We just took too many penalties early and it’s going to come back and bite you and it did early, but we battled through them and kept going.”
The Coyotes, who had a regular season 14.6 percent conversion rate on the power play, finished the night converting three of their four chances.
“It’s nice for a group that struggled a little bit on the power play throughout the year,” said Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski. “It was nice to come out today and do the basics, move the puck around, get shots on the net and good things happen when the little things happen.
Phoenix picked up 11 of their 35 shots on the power play. Detroit finished with 40 shots and 13 on the power play.
Glendale and the Coyotes
Before the Coyotes even stepped out onto the ice, the Glendale City Council voted to approve Jerry Reinsdorf’s bid to buy the franchise on Tuesday.
The deal must be approved by the National Hockey League and the other owners.