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Good Position

Posted By Doug Podkowsky On Feb 8 2012 @ 6:53 pm In Phoenix Coyotes | No Comments

PHX – 4   DAL – 1   F

The Coyotes found themselves in unfamiliar territory Tuesday night. They were on the road for the first time since Jan 18th. They cracked the playoff barrier for the first time since November 15th. They won 3 straight games for the first time since November 3rd, and for the first time all season they won 3 straight games in regulation. The surging Coyotes have now won 4 of their last 5 including wins against the Division-leading Sharks and the Conference-leading Red Wings.

Playing for the third time in four nights, Phoenix came into the game riding a wave of momentum and playing with confidence through the first two games of the three game stretch. That continued Tuesday with the Stars on their heels right from the opening faceoff. Coyotes’ center Martin Hanzel split the defense and almost netted a goal 20 seconds into the game. Phoenix kept applying the pressure and four minutes later, Keith Yandle, one of the league’s top-scoring defensemen, gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.

Tied at 1 late in the 2nd, Radim Vrbata scored his team-high 25th goal of the season tipping it over the Dallas netminder after a beautiful feed from Rotislav Klesla. Raffi Torres added to that lead early on in the 3rd, and Phoenix cruised through the final period with a two-goal advantage. Derek Morris put this one away scoring with his first goal of the year with just under four minutes to play.

The game was really a goaltending duel even though the score might indicate otherwise. The Coyotes outplayed the Stars throughout the game and if it weren’t for the play of goalie Kari Lehtonen, the Stars would have been helplessly out of it. That point was driven home by Stars’ coach Glen Gulutzan during the postgame press conference. “We weren’t very good. Even with a real good goalie performance (by Lehtonen), we got outworked by a team that played last night.”

The Stars were not without their chances, but Mike Smith was in lockdown mode with another spectacular performance. The Coyotes killed all four of Dallas’ power play opportunities, but it was Smith who was primarily responsible for that. Most notably with the game tied midway through the 2nd period, Phoenix took a double minor giving Dallas a four minute power play. Big saves by Smith on that penalty kill, including stoning Steve Ott from 8 feet away during a flury in front of the net, really helped swing the momentum away from Dallas. “I think it was a big momentum booster for us,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said when talking about killing off the double minor penalty. “Getting the kill there and exhausting ourselves doing it was a boost to the rest of the guys on the bench.”

Three minutes after that double minor penalty, Vrbata scored what turned out to be the game winner.

The Coyotes are playing exceptional hockey as of late. Their worst performance of the season against Anaheim last week, served as a wake up call and they have been high-flying ever since. Mike Smith is leading the charge stopping 90 of 95 shots during the win streak and Phoenix is averaging 4 goals per game since centers Martin Hanzel and Boyd Gordon have both returned to the lineup full time. The Coyotes are now tied with Minnesota for the 8th and final playoff spot, and only 3 points separate the 8th and 12th place teams in the Western Conference.

There is no rest for the weary, though. After a travel day on Wednesday, Phoenix returns home to face the Calgary Flames on Thursday. The Coyotes hold a 3 point advantage over Calgary so every game continues to be crucial.

Coyotes Notes:

Ray Whitney notched 2 assists to extend his point-scoring streak to 6 games and has 13 points (2G, 11A) in his last 9 games.

Defenseman Keith Yandle left the game with a knee injury in the 3rd period. He is currently listed as day-to-day

10 different players earned at least 1 point in the win

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