By Dave Vest | Anthony Perez
The Coyotes are headed to the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Captain Shane Doan
scored the decisive goal in a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in front of a sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena on Friday night.
With the victory, the Coyotes (43-25-13) climbed to 99 points in the Western Conference standings with one game left in their regular season – at San Jose on Saturday. Because the standings are so congested, the Coyotes could finish as high as fourth place or as low as seventh when the NHL season ends on Sunday.
• Click here
to see the conference standings.
"At the start of the year, your goal is to win the division and get into the top eight to give yourself a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "…This year, it didn't happen until the second-to-last game of the season, but we are still in there."
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced to win and overtake Bob Essensa for the top spot on the franchise’s all-time victories list. Bryzgalov has won 130 games for Phoenix since it claimed him off waivers on Nov. 17, 2007.
The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead at the 15:58 mark of the first period when Andrew Ebbett
redirected a pass from Kyle Turris
past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi for his second goal of the season. The goal came just moments after Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette
delivered a crowd-friendly check on Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.
San Jose (47-25-9) responded at the 4:31 mark of the second period when Ian White scored a goal during a four-on-four segment.
The Coyotes answered later in the second period with a pair of even-strength goals scored less than four minutes apart by Ray Whitney
and Radim Vrbata
Coyotes captain Shane Doan
gave Phoenix a seemingly comfortable three-goal cushion at the 8:22 mark of the third period by scoring a power-play goal through traffic (see KEY MOMENT
|Photo by Getty Images.
The Sharks, however, mounted rally in the game’s final 12 minutes. At the 9:27 mark, Sharks captain Joe Thornton swatted the puck past Bryzgalov for his 1,000th NHL point. Dany Heatley made things really interesting by cutting Phoenix’s lead to 4-3 with a four-on-four goal at 16:21.
The Sharks pulled Niemi in the closing moments, but the Coyotes were able to hold on and snap an eight-game winless streak vs. San Jose. Bryzgalov made more than one clutch save during the hectic final minute and change.
“Tonight we hung in there,” Tippett said. “I had a real good feeling about today. We gave up a couple of late goals that I wasn't crazy about, but we competed hard and found a way to score some goals on them.”
The victory secured a second straight trip to the playoffs for the Coyotes, who last did it five times in a row from 1996-2000.
• Center Martin Hanzal
returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury in a game played on March 5. Hanzal logged 15:37 of ice time, won 11 of 15 faceoffs and played solid defense. With Hanzal back in the mix, the Coyotes boasted a healthy roster for the first time since Jan. 17.
• The Coyotes had posted a 0-5-3 against the Sharks since beating them 2-1 on Dec. 12, 2009, at Jobing.com Arena.
• Winger Radim Vrbata
played in his 600th career NHL game.
• The Coyotes scratched Mikkel Boedker
, Ryan Hollweg
, Brett MacLean
, Andy Miele
and David Schlemko
• The Coyotes' next game is Saturday vs. San Jose at HP Pavilion. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).