GLENDALE – Derek Morris
makes no bones about his role in the NHL.
"I'm not a goal scorer, let's be honest," the Coyotes defenseman said with a smile. "But when the opportunity arises, I can still wind it up."
The opportunity arose Wednesday night and Morris responded with his first three-point game in more than three years -- two assists and the game-winning goal 2:19 into the third period – as the Coyotes rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings, 3-2, in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series before a sold-out, white-clad crowd that filled Jobing.com Arena to celebrate the franchise's first playoff game in eight years.
On a night when the dormant Phoenix power play produced goals on its first three chances, Morris recorded his first three-point night since Mar. 18, 2007 -- an 8-4 loss to Edmonton during his first stint with Phoenix.
Fellow defenseman Keith Yandle
had a goal and an assist for Phoenix, which led the league in goals by defensemen for most of the season. Wojtek Wolski
scored on the power play in between as the Coyotes -- who finished 28th in the NHL with the extra man this season and ended the season on an 0-for-20 drought – put up three power-play goals.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
made 38 saves. He was perfect after allowing two goals in the first 16:27 -- a floater by Tomas Holmstrom from beyond the top of the left circle that he missed with his glove, and a Nicklas Lidstrom power-play blast with Holmstrom providing a perfect screen.
Lidstrom took stitches to his upper lip in the third period after he was hit by an inadvertent stick from Phoenix's Vernon Fiddler
. No penalty was called on the play, which would have given Detroit a 5-on-3. Lidstrom said the officials told him he was hit by teammate Valtteri Filppula.
"No way was it Fil's stick. (The referee) would have been better off telling me he missed it," Lidstrom said. "Even though it's an accidental play, it still happened."
After being outplayed in the first 20 minutes, during which they were outshot 20-7, the Coyotes used their physical play to turn the game in their favor. They finished with 43 hits and snapped a string of seven straight Game 1 playoff losses for the franchise – including 0 for 5 in Phoenix – dating to 1992, when the then-Winnipeg Jets beat Vancouver.
"I thought (in) the first period we looked a little jittery," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "...I thought the second and third periods were more like our team. I still think we can do much better."
Phoenix needed only nine seconds of power-play time for Yandle to answer Holmstrom's early goal with a shot from the point that found its way around a Doan screen and past Jimmy Howard 14:13 into the game. After Lidstrom put Detroit back in front 2:14 later, Yandle, stationed at the left point, took a feed from Morris and made a perfect diagonal pass to Wojtek Wolski
all alone in the right circle for a one-timer to get Phoenix even again 6:15 into the second.
"We have to play better, and we have to play harder for longer," Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock said. "The bottom line is you have to score -- it's not about chances. You have to give them credit; I thought they got stronger as the game went on I thought we were better early than them, and I thought they were better late than us."
Tied 2-2 early in the third period, Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi won a draw and fed the puck back to Derek Morris
, who wasn't challenged and came down the slot within 30 feet of the net before blasting a slap shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard's blocker.
Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock claimed the reason Morris had no one near him was that the Coyotes were guilty of interference on the play.
"That's the way hockey goes sometimes," Babcock said. "The bottom line was their special teams were better than ours."
• The Coyotes have won eight consecutive games at Jobing.com Arena. They will look to make it nine wins in a row on Friday in Game 2 of this best-of-seven series.
• Led by captain Shane Doan
with nine, Phoenix outhit Detroit 43-20.
• Winning one-goal games is nothing new for the Coyotes. Phoenix is 30-6-7 in one-goal games this season, including Wednesday night's game.
• The Coyotes scored three power-play goals in Game 1. They accomplished that feat only twice in the regular season - on Oct. 28 at Columbus and Jan. 9 vs. the New York islanders.
• Forward Wojtek Wolski
upped his point streak to six games when he scored a goal early in the second period.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette
, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Viktor Tikhonov
and Jim Vandermeer. The Red Wings scratched Justin Abdelkader, Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, Daniel Larsson, Brett Lebda, Brad May, Derek Meech and Mattias Ritola.