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The Phoenix Coyotes were host to the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night for their final game before Keith Yandle and the rest of the NHL’s best head up to Ottawa for this weekend’s All-Star festivities. While the Senators wanted to end their current two game skid, the Coyotes were desperate for a win, having amassed only 3 wins in their last 15 games. Phoenix got the win, and they did not look desperate in getting it. The Coyotes were strong in all facets of the game and played with confidence while the Senators played more like the desperate team.
The Coyotes controlled the pace of the game throughout the 1st period. They were able to get traffic and create chances in front of Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, something they have not done well in recent games. Defensemen Chris Summers’ big hit on Senators forward Kyle Turris set the tone for what would be a physical game and sent the Phoenix crowd in a fury. Turris, who Phoenix dealt to Ottawa on December 17th after sitting out two months in a contract dispute, was booed relentlessly all night by the Phoenix faithful. The boos became jubilation when Gilbert Brule gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead late in the 1st period after a brilliant setup by rookie Mikkel Boedker. This was Brule’s third goal and fourth point in his first seven games as a Coyote since being called up from the AHL on January 12th.
The Senators have been plagued by slow starts and Tuesday night was no different. This was the seventh consecutive game that Ottawa surrendered the game’s first goal.
The real story of the game was Mike Smith in goal for the Coyotes. After a poor performance Saturday against the Lightning, he was nothing short of spectacular Tuesday, especially in the 2nd period while preserving the Coyotes 1-0 lead. That lead was extended when yet another beautiful save by Smith started a rush the other way. Lauri Korpikoski made a strong move past the Ottawa defense and captain Shane Doan finished the play for his 15th goal and 30th point on the year. Korpikoski continues his hot streak with his sixth point in his last six games.
Head coach Dave Tippett was praising Smith performance after the game. “(Smith) bounced back and gave us a real strong game and that’s what we needed tonight… He’s come in and solidified himself as a strong number one goaltender in this league and we expect him to carry us the rest of the way.”
The biggest issue for the Coyotes over this past month has been their ability to finish close games. Going into Tuesday, the Coyotes were 0-5-5 in the ten previous games that were decided by 1 goal, a trend they knew they had to turn around. The Coyotes answered that call and never trailed in this game. Up 2-1 going into the 3rd, the Coyotes took advantage of a Senators team that started the period tired and flat. 90 seconds in, Radim Vrbata netted his 23rd goal of the year giving the Coyotes their second 2-goal lead of the game.
“That’s what you like to see,” Tippett said postgame. “When you’re up a goal going into the 3rd period. You go out and push the game ahead further.”
Vrbata’s goal woke up the Senators who quickly responded with a goal 14 seconds later. They continued to pressure the Coyotes zone throughout the 3rd period and outshot Phoenix 12-7 in the final frame. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson thought he had tied the game with just over 8:00 to play, but the goal was called off due to goalie interference on Nick Foligno. Smith stood tall the rest of the way and Vrbata’s goal held up to be the game winner.
This was a big win for the Coyotes going forward, and they can take a lot out of this game. They continue to have a really strong penalty killing unit, giving up zero goals and only two shots in three chances for Ottawa. Their defense played very strong and physical against a speedy Ottawa team that is among the Eastern Conference’s elite. The Coyotes also welcomed center Daymond Langkow back to the lineup as well as starting defensemen Adrian Aucoin, who missed the last four games due to injury. Phoenix moves within 3 points of the Minnesota Wild who currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot.
“We all recognize where we’re at and where we’ve got to get to,” Tippet added. “And I think the (All-Star) break comes at the right time.”
The Coyotes next game is Tuesday, January 31st when they host the Anaheim Ducks
This was the third game of a six game homestand for the Coyotes (1-1-1)
Ray Whitney notched an assist and leads the team with 43 points
Keith Yandle scored his 29th point of the year, good for 7th in the league among defensemen
Defensemen Derek Morris missed Tueday’s game with an upper body injury he sustained Saturday against Tampa Bay. He is listed as day-to-day
Radim Vrbata is currently 8th in the NHL in goals with 23, and was not picked for the All-Star game
About the Author
Written by Doug Podkowsky
I have a lifelong passion for hockey. My earliest memories include watching the great Islanders teams of the early 80s win the Stanley Cup. I learned how to skate when I learned how to walk. While I am no longer in my prime, physically and on the ice, I am still a student of the game and I love to offer my expertise to fans, players, kids, and anyone else who has a passion for this great game