The Phoenix Coyotes needed a lift, any kind of lift, and they were rewarded against one of the more powerful teams in the NHL.
Riding the skids of a five-game winless streak and facing a 4-1 deficient to the Detroit Red Wings, leaders in the Central Division, in the final period March 5 at home, the desert doggies dug deep, and found a way to pull this one out of the fire.
"Huge” was the optimum word circulating around the Coyotes dressing room after the Detroit win. Still, the team needs to heed Tippett’s observation by using the victory as a lift-off to better things.
A 5-4 shootout win could act as “a springboard,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said, and be the kind of catalyst to propel the Coyotes into the postseason.
“This is the kind of game which can turn us around,” Tippett said after the shootout win Mar. 5. “We found a way to win, and didn’t think we were out of it down 4-1. This game could be a springboard on how we can play.”
With two games left on its current home stand, the Coyotes need to desperately to put together a winning streak, however modest. The Western Conference-leading Vancouver Canucks skate into Jobing.com Arena Mar. 8, and the last time the Canucks were here, they recorded a 6-0 win. That was the worst defeat of the season for Phoenix from both a physical and emotional vantage.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes found a way to win against Detroit, and for the first time in two weeks, smiles were detected in the Phoenix dressing room.
“I thought Detroit was a tired team, and we took advantage,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “When we were down (at 4-1) after the second period, the coaches came in and told us to stay clam, stay in it. When we did that, we started to feed off one another, and were able to come back.”
Third period goals from Mikkel Boedker and Ray Whitney brought the Coyotes to within two at 4-3 and then Martin Hanzel poked in a loose puck in front of Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard to tie it with 1:57 left in the final period.
With no scoring in overtime, Radim Vrbata lifted a backhander over Howard in the shootout for the game winner, and the Coyotes won for the first time since defeating the Flyers Feb. 22.
With the schedule dwindling down to just a few weeks before commencement of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Coyotes could not sink deeper. With teams bunched so close, and any losing streak could easily drop a team from the penthouse to the basement in a manner of a few days, the Coyotes cannot afford any lapse.
“Huge two points for us,” said Kyle Turris, who put the Coyotes on the scoreboard with his 11th goal of the season late in the opening period. “This was great for our confidence and any time you can pick up points in a race as tight as us, it’s huge.”
This team has suffered too many lapses in recent games, and needs to understand the urgency of the hour.
The Coyotes may have lost another defenseman. Blue liner Derek Morris left the Wings game in the second period, and did not return. Tippett said Morris sustained a lower back injury and listed as day-to-day.
The Coyotes went 0-for-5 on the power play, and entered the Wings game with a percentage of 16.5, good for 21st in the league. The Wings were second in the league in penalties, but the Coyotes could not take advantage.
Vrbata picked up his team-leading fifth shootout goal in eight attempts to seal the game. He is the only Coyote with more than one goal in shootout competition this season. The others with one each are Shane Doan, Eric Belanger, Lee Stempniak and Turris.
When the Wings’ Darren Helm scored shorthanded with 13 seconds left in the second period, that was the fifth for Detroit and Helm’s team-leading second shorthanded tally of the season. The Coyotes allowed their sixth shorthanded goal of the season.
After Vancouver on March 8, Calgary is in at Jobing.Com Arena March 10 to conclude the current three game home stand. The Coyotes then go on an important four-game road trip to Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. They then return for a six-game home stand which will likely influence positioning for postseason play.