By Associated Press
SUNRISE, Fla. – The Coyotes on Tuesday preserved a much-needed win by the smallest of margins.
Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata each had a goal and assist to lift Phoenix to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith stopped 19 shots before leaving with 16:31 left in the third period because of a non-contact injury. Jason LaBarbera relieved Smith and made eight saves, including an extraordinarily close one on a penalty shot late in the game.
The Coyotes (17-13-3) won for just the second time in six games. The victory came about 72 hours after they gave up the winning goal with 0.1 seconds left on Saturday against the New York Rangers. This time, an inch or two separated them from a possible tying goal.
The Panthers (18-10-6) were awarded a penalty shot with 24.5 seconds left in the game after several Coyotes' players displaced the net. Stephen Weiss' shot was blocked by LaBarbera, and the puck stopped right on the goal line (see photo and KEY MOMENT below).
Brian Campbell scored for the Panthers, and Jose Theodore made 20 saves. It was the first loss in regulation for the Panthers in nine home games. Florida's last 13 home games have been decided by one goal.
|Photo by Getty Images.
The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead during a five-on-three power play in the first period. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson passed from above the right circle to Whitney low in the left circle. His one-timer beat Theodore at 19:53.
Phoenix stretched its lead to 2-0 on a power-play goal by Vrbata at 9:02 of the second. Defenseman Keith Yandle passed to Vrbata in the left circle, and his slap shot trickled past Theodore for his team-leading 16th goal.
The Panthers closed to 2-1 when Campbell's shot bounced off the right post, hit Smith on the back, and bounced back into the net with 2:18 left in the second.
Florida's Mikael Samuelsson took a hard check from Phoenix's Shane Doan in the second and lay motionless on the ice for several minutes before being helped off the ice. He didn't return.
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
With the Coyotes leading 2-1, Florida was awarded a penalty shot after the on-ice officials ruled the Coyotes intentionally displaced their net with 24.5 seconds left in the third period.
Florida's Stephen Weiss took the penalty shot but Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera
slowed the puck just enough to keep it from crossing the goal line.
► Click here
to watch the KEY MOMENT
• Coyotes goalie Mike Smith
suffered a lower-body injury while lunging to make a save at 3:29 of the third period. Smith crumpled to the ice and was assisted to the team's dressing room a few minutes later. He did not return. After the game, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said Smith is considered day-to-day. Meanwhile, Smtih was credited with his 15th victory of the season - a new season-high for his NHL career.
• Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera
returned to the team after a one-game absence to attend to a "family issue." LaBarbera was inserted into the game early in the third period after starter Mike Smith
suffered a lower-body injury. "You do have to be ready at any time," LaBarbera said. "I was kind of in la-la land, but the heart gets going pretty quick once you get out there and move around."
• The Coyotes played minus defenseman Adrian Aucoin
, who suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday's game vs. the New York Rangers. Aucoin did not accompany the Coyotes on this two-game trip to Florida and Carolina.
• Defenseman David Schlemko
was hit in the face by a puck in the second period and needed several stitches to repair a nasty cut above his lip. He returned later in the game. Coyotes captain Shane Doan
presented Schlemko with the team's "Player of the Game" wrestling belt as a nod to his toughness and dedication.
• The Coyotes scratched Adrian Aucoin
, Paul Bissonnette
, and David Rundblad
• The Coyotes' next game is Wednesday vs. the Carolina Hurricanes at the RBC Center. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).