By Dave Vest
Playing on enemy ice and without their injured captain, the Coyotes rallied as a pack on Sunday and refused to let their remarkable and extraordinary season come to an end.
Led by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
, who stopped 31 of 33 shots, Phoenix defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 5-2, at Joe Louis Arena in Game 6 of their Western Conference playoff series. The best–of-seven matchup, now tied at three games apiece, will be decided Tuesday night at Jobing.com Arena.
Eleven players notched at least one point for the Coyotes in the must-have victory. Forward Taylor Pyatt
led the way with a goal and an assist, and defenseman Keith Yandle
chipped in two assists.
Phoenix won because its special teams rose to the occasion in the most important game of the season. The Coyotes, facing elimination, were 3 for 6 on power plays and killed all five of Detroit’s advantages, including a five-on-three power play that lasted 70 seconds in first period.
“We needed our power play to get us something and we got a good effort out of them,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "I was surprised that we needed our penalty kill so much so early, but 'Bryz' just jumped in the game and was excellent."
The Coyotes were called for three penalties within the first five minutes of the game, but the penalty-kill unit, led by Bryzgalov, weathered the storm. In fact, Phoenix seized momentum while killing the second penalty when forward Lauri Korpikoski
scored a short-handed goal at 4:10 to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead (see KEY MOMENT below).
“We didn’t start out the way we wanted to with three penalty kills, but we were able to come out of it with a one-goal lead,” defenseman/power play specialist Mathieu Schneider said. “That really gave us a big boost. ‘Bryz’ did a tremendous job. You’ve got to give him credit.”
Phoenix, which entered the game 0 for 18 on power plays in Games 2-5, took a 2-0 lead when Schneider ripped a shot past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard at 2:27 of the second period while Detroit’s Tomas Holmstrom sat in the penalty box for cross-checking.
The two-goal cushion lasted just 44 seconds as Detroit’s Brad Stuart beat Bryzgalov with a shot from between the circles.
The Coyotes, however, scored twice more before the second period ended. Center Robert Lang set Radim Vrbata
up with a nifty cross-slot pass on Phoenix’s third goal, and Wojtek Wolski
deflected a shot by Petr Prucha
past Howard at even strength for a 4-1 lead at 14:01 of the second period.
The teams traded goals, chirps and a few punches in the third period, but the Coyotes never lost control of the game.
"The only disappointment I have here today is that we didn't win," Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock said. "I liked our preparation, I liked our attitude, I liked the way we went about our business. We've got another opportunity, and that, to me, is what it's all about."
• Coyotes captain Shane Doan
did not play for a third consecutive game because of an undisclosed injury he suffered in Game 3. Doan’s status for Game 7 likely won’t be determined/announced until Tuesday.
• Forward Taylor Pyatt
notched his first two points of the series. It was the second multiple-point playoff game of his career.
• The Coyotes have played two Game 7 playoff games since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996. They were shut out in both games - 3-0 by Anaheim in 1997 and 1-0 in overtime by St. Louis in 1999.
• Defenseman Ed Jovanovski
blocked a game-high four shots, including one about 12 minutes into the third period that left him writhing in pain on the ice for a few seconds. He eventually made his way to the bench and returned later in the game.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette
, Shane Doan
, Petteri Nokelainen, Viktor Tikhonov
and Jim Vandermeer. The Red Wings scratched Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, Daniel Larsson, Brett Lebda, Brad May, Thomas McCollum, Derek Meech, Logan Pyett, Mattias Ritola and Jason Williams.