NHL Playoffs: Poor Start Doomed Phoenix Coyotes in Game 3

Mark BrownContributor IApril 19, 2011

The Wings celebrated early and often in  Game Three.
The Wings celebrated early and often in Game Three.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Tentative starts usually kills teams.

The Phoenix Coyotes seems to have more than an adequate number of "tentative starts," and Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinal round appeared no different. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov surrendered two goals in the opening 2:41 of the match and two within 44 seconds. The Coyotes managed three shots in net in the first 13 and one half minutes of the game.

That start, plus being down 2-0 in this series to the Detroit Red Wings, equalled disaster. As a result, the Coyotes could not recover and dropped a 4-2 decision to the Wings on April 18. That now puts Phoenix behind 3-0 in the series and face elimination Wednesday April 20 at Jobing.com Arena.

Not there's any comfort classified with the defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks, as the 'Hawks dropped three straight to Vancouver in their Western Conference quarter-final round, but the Coyotes stand right on the precipice.

"We don't have a guy right now not pouring his heart out," said Dave Tippett, the Phoenix coach. "We were excited about playing, had great energy and they two goals which both deflected off players. We couldn't have asked for a worst start."

Down quickly 2-0, the Coyotes could not recover.

At the start of the middle session, an  apparent lack of  concentration continued to haunt Phoenix. The Wings' Valtteri Filppula drew Bryzgallov out of position, from the right of the net, and then slide the puck between the five-hole just 2:50 into the second period. That created a 3-0 Wings lead, and Detroit withstood a a brief flurry by Phoenix for the victory.

 "The two quick goals early took the crowd out of the game, and took the wind out of our sails," said Ray Whitney, who scored late in the third period to put the Coyotes within two. "We'll continue to fight and won't lay down."

If there's any consolation, the Philadelphia Flyers were down 3-0 to Boston last spring, came back to win that series and eventually challenge the Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup. In this case, the Wings appear to be too formidable an opponent.

Around the Coyotes locker room, the optimum word was "frustration." Down two games in the series and two to play at home, the players expected a better fate. In the end, Phoenix hangs on the edge of disaster, and their future in the desert in the balance.

"We did bounce back, but didn't get our chances," said Kyle Turris, who assisted on the Coyotes' first goal. "We didn't capitalize and it's frustrating. Obviously, not the start we wanted and now, we need to take one game at a time. Win in Game Four and take it back to Detroit."

If the Red Wings have any input, this series will end in the desert. If the next game at Joe Louis Arena would be the Wings first contest in the Western Conference semifinal round, the Motor City squad would be a bunch of happy campers.

"Teams that win generally play less games," asked Mike Babcock, the Red Wings coach, rhetorically. "Why play more games than you have to play?"


The Wings last sweep of a playoff round was the second round in the 2008 playoff season. They took out Colorado in the Western Conference semifinal round in four. Detroit then  eliminated Dallas in the Conference finals and defeated the Penguins in six games to capture the Stanley Cup.

The last time Phoenix was down 3-0 in a playoff round was the opening round of the 2000 playoffs. The Avalanche had a 3-0 lead, the Coyotes won game four 3-2, and then lost 2-1 in Denver to drop the series in five. That was the only time Phoenix was behind 3-0 in any playoff series. They did lose three straight twice when the opening round was best of five. That was to the Oilers when the franchise was in Winnipeg in 1984, and the Jets lost 3-0 to Calgary in 1986.

NOTE- The quotes in this story were gathered by the reporter of this piece through post-game interviews with players and coaches' press conferences.