A storybook season has landed the Coyotes in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and the best could be yet to come.
Phoenix (47-23-6) clinched a postseason spot early on Saturday afternoon when Calgary lost to Boston, then celebrated with a 6-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena. With the win, the Coyotes earned their 99th and 100th points of the season.
"It's special for us as a team," said captain Shane Doan
, with the club since it moved from Winnipeg in 1996. "Obviously there were a lot of doubts coming into this season by a lot of people. It's nice to answer those doubts and have an opportunity to do even better than that."
In front of a raucous, packed house, Coyotes forward Lee Stempniak
scored twice in the third period, giving him 12 goals in 12 games since he arrived from Toronto via trade, including four two-goal games.
"I've only been here a short time but the character in the locker room is unlike anything I've ever seen from another team I've been with," Stempniak said. "Everyone knows their role and embraces it."
Former Coyotes forward Kevin Porter scored for the Avalanche (41-26-7), who are eighth in the Western Conference standings, six points ahead of ninth-place Calgary.
had a "Gordie Howe hat trick" with a goal, assist and fight in his 600th NHL game. Vernon Fiddler
added a short-handed, empty-net goal as Phoenix matched its highest-scoring game of the season.
"I think it's safe to say that our best players weren't our best players," Colorado Head Coach Joe Sacco said. "They know that and they need to be better. For us to be consistent, that has to happen."
Stempniak's 25th goal came after a faceoff in the Colorado end, putting the Coyotes ahead 4-2 just under five minutes into the final period in front of a crowd of 17,188 - Phoenix's second home sellout in a row. Stempniak added a power-play goal moments later.
"It's one of those things where I'm just getting chances, and fortunately they're going in," he said. "I'm just trying to go to the right areas and shoot the puck and keep riding the momentum."
Avs forward Peter Mueller, who has five goals and 10 assists since the trade from Phoenix to Colorado on March 3, sat out the game because of a hip injury.
Pyatt's wicked wrister slipped past Avs goalie Craig Anderson to make the score 3-1 at 9:25 of the second period.
The Avalanche cut the deficit to 3-2 when Milan Hejduk scored his 22nd goal of the season with just 33 seconds left in the second.
Coyotes forward Wojtek Wolski
, who came to Phoenix from Colorado in a trade for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter, scored the deciding goal against his former teammates in his first game with the Coyotes on March 4.
On Saturday, he scored against his former team again.
Wolski's goal, which put Phoenix ahead 2-1, was set up on a point-blank block by Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
. The Coyotes then rushed the puck to the Avalanche end, and Wolski wristed in a shot from the left circle at 6:20 of the second period for his 22nd goal of the season and fifth since he joined the Coyotes.
• Coyotes players came out on the ice to thank the crowd when the game was over. "The growth of the fan base and the growth of the energy in the building from where we started in the fall to where we are now is remarkable," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said, "and it's a real credit to the players, to how hard they've committed themselves to play, and it's a real credit to the fans that they've recognized that and they're coming and having fun at the games."
• Four of Phoenix's goals came from players who joined the team on March 3, just before the NHL trade deadline: Lee Stempniak
(two), Wojtek Wolski
and Derek Morris
• Phoenix joined Washington and San Jose as the only teams to reach 100 points this season.
• The Coyotes tied the franchise record for home wins at 27, set in 2001-02.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette
, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Viktor Tikhonov
and Jim Vandermeer. The Avalanche scratched John-Michael Liles, Peter Mueller, Ryan Wilson and Stephane Yelle.