The Phoenix Coyotes entered this past week on the fringe of the playoff race and kept themselves right in the mix as they were able to pick up key points against their Western Conference rivals.
Phoenix 5, Anaheim 4 (SO)
First up was a two-game, home-and-away series with the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks. With the first game at Jobing.com Arena, it was imperative for the Coyotes to get points before heading to the Pond in Anaheim, where the Ducks had only lost once this season.
The 'Yotes trailed early at home as the Ducks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but as the game wore on the Coyotes began to put tremendous pressure on the Ducks and goalie Jonas Hiller. Two second-period goals by the Coyotes put them up 2-1, and on a power play late, the Coyotes looked to add to their lead.
The Ducks were able to turn momentum with a short-handed goal with eight seconds left in the second and tie the game up heading into the third period.
Anaheim came out firing in the third and took a 3-2 lead only to see Shane Doan tie it up again shortly thereafter at 3-3. The Ducks would take a 4-3 lead with 13 minutes left only to see the Coyotes tie it up again at 4-4 and force a second straight overtime/shootout game with the Ducks. Coyotes goalie Mike Smith came up huge, stopping four of the five Ducks shooters, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson banged home the game-winner, giving Phoenix a crucial two points in the standings.
Anaheim 2, Phoenix 0
The Coyotes would then travel to Anaheim on Wednesday, and in this game, the goalies took center stage. Backup Jason LaBarbera got his third start of the season and played well in net, but a first-period goal by Corey Perry was all the Ducks would need to secure the victory and two points in the standings. Jonas Hiller faced 18 shots and stopped them all; the Ducks would add an empty-net goal late, making it 2-0 at the game's conclusion.
In three games against the Ducks in the past 10 days, the Coyotes bagged four points, and with the way the Ducks were playing, those were points that will prove valuable toward the end of the season.
St. Louis 6, Phoenix 3
Next up was a visit from the St. Louis Blues to Jobing.com Arena on Thursday, and the Blues came to play. After a spirited start by both teams, the game was knotted at one after one. In the second, the Coyotes would take a 2-1 lead after Shane Doan scored less than a minute in.
But, from that point forward, the Blues dominated the Coyotes, scoring five straight goals, including two from Patrik Berglund, effectively ending the game late in the third when they made it 6-2. A consolation goal from the Coyotes made it a 6-3 final score, but it was a disappointing result after playing solid hockey for the past week.
Phoenix 2, Dallas 1
The loss to St. Louis meant that the visit from Pacific Division rivals, the Dallas Stars, on Saturday was even bigger than before as the Coyotes had fallen out of the top eight prior to the game.
A defensively tight game was played as both teams looked for an opening. Coyotes captain Shane Doan found the opening to give the Coyotes the lead 1-0 at the end of the first period.
Many fans would not have picked Coyotes forward Rob Klinkhammer to score the game-winner, as the recently called-up forward banged home his first career goal, giving the Coyotes a 2-0 lead in the second. That would be all that goaltender Mike Smith would need as he held off a late Stars rally, and while conceding one goal, Smith would not give up the vital second allowing the Coyotes to regain the eighth seed in the West at the end of the week and taking a critical two points away from the Stars.
After all was said and done, the Coyotes took four of a possible eight points from the games during the week, which kept them in playoff position heading into another pivotal week as the Desert Dogs welcome the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings to Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday.