'Yotes Notes: Stingy Defense Stymied Penguins
GLENDALE – The Coyotes beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday night and the official scoresheet reveals multiple heroes for Phoenix.
It also reveals how well the team played defensively against one of the elite teams in the NHL.
Defensive pairing Zbynek Michalek and Oliver Ekman-Larsson were especially stingy against NHL points leader Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh’s top line. Crosby, who leads the League with 75 points, did not score a goal or set one up, and he managed just two shots on goal. Crosby linemates Chris Kunitz and Tanner Glass combined for just one shot.
|Zbynek Michalek celebrates his first goal of the season. Photo by Norm Hall.|
"It's always a fun challenge to play against top players in this League and it's an awesome feeling to shut them down," said Ekman-Larsson, who played a game-high 27:23.
"Ollie was All-World," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "That was an unbelievable game by him… He's so good. It's not just with the puck. He defends very well.”
For Michalek, the win was sweet, especially considering he scored his first goal of the season and it turned out to be the game-winner against his former team.
"I think we had something to prove tonight,” Michalek said. “We believe that when we play the right way we can play against any team."
He added, “I almost forgot what it felt like (to score) because it's been almost two years. It definitely felt good. Hopefully I don't have to wait that long for the next goal… Any time you play against your former team, you want to show up. You want to win that game and feel good about it. For me, this one feels great. I'll enjoy it tonight and move on.”
Ironically, Michalek’s most recent goal before Saturday’s came for Pittsburgh against Phoenix on March 5, 2012.
Center Mike Ribeiro put Phoenix ahead 1-0 in the first period by scoring his 200th NHL goal.
"It's always nice to score goals," said Ribeiro, who has played 840 games. "You can still be 40 (years old) and enjoy scoring. I'm sure (Jaromir) Jagr still celebrates after he scores. It's always fun to score. And it's hard to score in this League, so 200 goals, yeah, it’s a big milestone. I'll take that and be happy with it. Especially for a guy like me who doesn't shoot a lot, to have 200 is really nice."
Goalie Mike Smith was pleased with the way he played in his return to the lineup after a two-game break.
"It's nice to get back in and play well,” Smith said. “I needed to work on a few things and got that work in (with Goaltenders Coach Sean Burke). Hopefully I can keep pushing forward."
He added, "Less is more sometimes, even with puck-handling and movements within your net. Being in the right position to make more saves look easier than they may be - when you do that, it makes the team feel more confident in you and they play a more confident game, too."
• Center Antoine Vermette quietly extended his point streak to a career-high seven games by assisting on Ribeiro's goal.
• The attendance for Saturday’s game was 17,342. According to LeBlanc, the franchise broke its regular-season single-game revenue record for the second time this season.
• Before the game, the Coyotes staged a Town Hall Meeting for fans featuring co-owners George Gosbee and Anthony LeBLanc, and General Manager Don Maloney.
The 30-minute Q & A session covered a wide variety of topics, including an upcoming Throwback Jersey Night.
“It will happen next year,” LeBlanc said. “We received approval from the League last week, so that will happen at least one game next year.”
• And finally, today of course is Super Bowl Sunday. The Coyotes are not practicing and the players will presumably be watching the NFL’s biggest game.
In case you’ve missed it, click here to see Paul Bissonnette, Shane Doan and Keith Yandle share their unique thoughts on the game.