Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coyotes stave off late Flyers rally, snag OT win

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The fact that Shane Doan notched a power-play goal with 2:19 left in overtime to give the Phoenix Coyotes a 3-2 victory over the Flyers Tuesday night was pretty much immaterial.

That it occurred with Kimmo Timonen in the penalty box, sent off on a phantom stick infraction a little over a minute before didn't really matter.

"I didn’t like it," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said diplomatically. "There is a lot of stick work that goes on. We were fighting around that net offensively and with 4-on-3, I did not like that call."

What did, was that the Eastern Conference leaders needed 58 minutes and 47 seconds of game time to show even a little bit of what got them to the top of the standings in the first place.

Claude Giroux temporarily saved their bacon, when his second-chance shot, taken while lying on the ice at the left side of the crease with 1:13 left in regulation, sent the Orange and Black to the extra session.

"Yeah, I got it up pretty quick and tried to get it on net," Giroux said. "It got back into the defense, but I was able to get a second shot on it."

It wasn't enough, as Radim Vrbata fed Doan with a cross-ice dish that led to a successful one-timer from the left circle for the game-winner.

Phoenix, which got 37 saves from Ilya Bryzgalov, won its eighth straight game and padded its lead atop the Pacific Division. It is the second such streak in as many seasons for the Coyotes, who won nine in a row from March 4-21, 2010.

Sergei Bobrovsky took the loss with 26 stops, but began to look more and more like the rookie he is, as Philadelphia dropped its first home contest since January 22.

Ville Leino picked up the other goal for the Flyers, who had won six of their last eight outings coming in and failed to become the first NHL club to reach 40 wins.

Coming off a successful four-game road trip that resulted in three wins, the Flyers were all over the visitors in the early stages of the contest.
Yet, it was a fluke goal which gave Peter Laviolette's club the lead.

Matt Carle got the puck near the boards at the blue line on the left wing and let a floater go towards the Phoenix net. Touched at least once near the center of the ice, possibly by Leino, the puck ultimately changed direction off Coyotes forward Sami Lepisto, took a bad hop and sailed past Bryzgalov at the 6:24 mark of the opening period.

Despite a late-period power play, the Flyers failed to add to their advantage and led 1-0 after one.

Things got dicey just 17 seconds into the second period.

After the Coyotes came on a rush, Bobrovsky covered up the puck at the left post. Clearly after the whistle blew, former Flyer Scottie Upshall levelled spare defenseman Oskars Bartulis with a hard, high check.

The Latvian backliner, pressed into service after Sean O'Donnell is expected be out for up to two weeks, crumpled to the ice heavily and landed on his shoulder. He left with what was termed as an upper-body injury and did not return.

It was not the impression Upshall hoped to make in his first game back on South Broad Street since he was dealt for Dan Carcillo in March, 2009. He was heartily booed for the remainder of the game every time he touched the puck.

Philly failed to capitalize on Upshall's boarding penalty, or a subsequent call to Nolan Yonkman for cross-checking. Phoenix also couldn't find the net despite two advantages in the final four-plus minutes of the second.

Playing against just five defensemen, the Coyotes finally got their break at 2:54 of the third.

Mikkel Boedker eluded a Flyers' defenseman in the neutral zone and carried down the right wing all the way behind Bobrovsky's net. Spinning away from another checker, he slid a pass through the slot for a one-timer by Eric Belanger for a 1-1 tie.

Bobrovsky later channeled the spirit of Stephane Beauregard and countless other hapless former Philadelphia netminders, totally flubbing a rolling Taylor Pyatt shot into the net for a 2-1 contest with 9 1/2 minutes remaining.

Two more Coyotes penalties passed without the home team solving Bryzgalov, though it wasn't for lack of trying. James van Riemsdyk was absolutely stoned by the Russian goaler, as his quick chance from the left side with 2:36 remaining met a left pad on its way to a half-open net.

"I feel good...especially when you’re winning, you don’t feel too much tiredness," said Bryzgalov, who made his 19th straight start. "I think in the last stretch –- the last eight or nine games, I’ve played very well."

Pinned in their own end for periods of time as the game progressed due to Phoenix's modified trap, it wasn't until Bobrovsky went to the bench for an extra attacker in the final 1:24 that the Flyers showed some real spark.

It paid off temporarily in the tying score, as work by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards through bodies in the slot worked the disc to Giroux for his 21st of the season.

Notes:The Coyotes improved to 4-5-1 in 10 games at Philadelphia since 1996...Winnipeg/Phoenix upped its all-time mark here to 10-23-1 since entering the NHL in 1979...Doan participated in the 1,098th game with the Jets/Coyotes, tying him with Teppo Numminen for most on the all-time list...He is the last skater in the NHL who dressed for the Jets before their 1996 relocation...Phoenix has won two of its last three appearances in the Quaker City...This was Vrbata's second two-assist game in the last four...Jody Shelley was the recipient of 60 stitches following his second-period fight with Yonkman.
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