COYOTES DEFEAT WILD 2-1 IN HOME OPENER
By Sergey Kocharov
(Photos courtesy of Norm Hall)
The third time is always a charm.
After two tough losses in Vancouver and Los Angeles, Phoenix Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky is officially in the record books as the Coyotes defeated the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd of 17,799 on opening night at Glendale Arena.
"People talk about it, so to get my first one here is extremely exciting," said Gretzky. "Of course, I would have liked to have it in Vancouver, but we'll take it. Scotty Bowman's record is pretty safe, though."
Ladislav Nagy and Shane Doan both scored for the Coyotes, who improved to 7-2 in home openers.
"It was a big win for us and it was nice to get it at home," said Nagy, who made his season debut after missing the first two games of the season because of shoulder injury. "It was nice to come back. The doctors told me it will take me couple weeks to get it to 100 percent, but it was great to be back and see all the fans."
Nagy, who had plethora of scoring changes in the game, tied the contest at 1-1 when he was awarded a penalty shot with 1:13 left in the second period. The call for a penalty shot came following a play where Nagy, while in complete possession of the puck and flying towards the goal, was hauled down by Minnesota's Nick Schultz.
"I knew (goaltender Dwayne Roloson) from our time in the minors, so I was kind of going to see what he gives me," said Nagy. "I was thinking about stick side and luckily it went in for us. I was really lucky because (Roloson) played really well tonight."
Curtis Joseph added an impressive performance of his own as he stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced on the evening, including a penalty shot in the second period by Minnesota's Alexander Daigle.
Playing in the home opener and in front of a sellout crowd added extra pressure even for a veteran netminder like Joseph.
"Of course, you always anticipate playing in front of your home crowd on opening and it can get a bit nerve-wracking," said Joseph, who stopped Alexander Daigle on the penalty shot in the second period. "But luckily we were able to come back and pull out a win."
The Coyotes didn't register the winning goal until late in the third period when captain Shane Doan made his presence felt in front of the Wild net.
With just 4:42 remaining in regulation, Doan redirected Sean O'Donnell's blast from the blue line past Roloson to collect his first goal of the young campaign.
"I saw O'Donnell taking the shot, I was just trying to get good position inside and was able to tip that one in," said Doan.
Randy Robitaille scored the lone goal for the Wild in the first period.
THE GOLDEN JET RETURNS
In a pre-game ceremony before the game, Bobby Hull's No. 9 jersey was un-retired by the Coyotes for his son, Brett - who will now sport the No. 9 jersey for the remainder of the season.
"I want Brett Hull to have as much fun wearing No. 9 as I did," said Bobby Hull. "The ceremony was extremely exciting for our family."
Coyotes center Mike Ricci was hit in the face with a puck midway though the third period. Ricci broke his nose on the play and is listed as day-to-day.
HOW LOW CAN HE GO?
Joseph's career 1.79 goals-against average against the Wild is his best versus any other opponent.
THE MORE ICE TIME, THE MERRIER
Just as he did in five of the six preseason games in which he played, David Tanabe led the Coyotes in ice time in the season opener at Vancouver, logging 23:44. Tanabe ranked second on the Coyotes in average time on the ice in 2003-04 at 23:02, trailing only Paul Mara (23:36).
The Coyotes will return to the ice on Tuesday, October 11th when they travel to Dallas to face the Stars. Tuesday's game can be seen on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) national broadcast. Fans can also listen to the game on KDUS-1060AM.