By Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent
GLENDALE --Mike Smith handles the saves. Radim Vrbata is in charge of the goals.
That has been the formula for the Coyotes during the past two weeks, a combination that has produced 15 points in eight games. It worked again Saturday night as Smith made 30 saves and Vrbata scored his career-high 28th goal of the season at 1:15 of overtime as Phoenix kept rolling with a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars at Jobing.com Arena.
Smith had his career-best shutout streak snapped at 171 minutes, 26 seconds when Michael Ryder batted a rebound into the net in the second period to tie the score 1-1, but he stopped all 10 Dallas shots in the third period and carried his team to overtime.
Vrbata took it from there (see KEY MOMENT below).
A great February is helping again. The Coyotes, who won eight straight from Feb. 5-22 last year, are 7-0-1 in their last eight games. They have allowed only five goals in the last seven games – no more than one in any one game – while outscoring opponents by a 16-5 margin.
"I thought we didn’t look like we had the same energy as the other night in LA," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "Whether that game took a lot out of us, or getting home at 3 a.m. from there after that game, we weren’t near as sharp as we were in LA. That being said, we hung around the game... It’s huge points for us against a team that’s below us in the standings, but we’ve got to find a way to make our game better than it was tonight.”
With a win before a crowd of 16,604 on "Alice Cooper Bobble Head Night," Phoenix (67 points) remains in seventh place in the West but now leads Dallas by five points and inches within two points of the Pacific-Division leading San Jose Sharks with their fifth straight home win. The Sharks have three games in hand.
Mikkel Boedker snapped a 20-game goal-scoring drought in the first period for Phoenix before Ryder tied the score with his team-leading 22nd of the season for the Stars.
Lehtonen made 31 saves for Dallas, but it wasn't enough in a game the slumping Stars had to have. They are 1-3-1 in the last five games, losing to the Coyotes twice in the last 11 days, and remain 10th in the West with 62 points.
"We played hard, but we need results," Stars Head Coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It's a results-related business. We need results. We can't make a mistake at the end to give away a point. It was a good hockey game and it's a shame it had to end that way."
Phoenix started the game without four regulars and lost centers Martin Hanzal (lower-body injury) and Kyle Chipchura (wrist) during the game. Already shorthanded on defense, they watched the Stars dominate the second and third period but Smith held the fort and kept his team in the game.
The Coyotes outshot Dallas 12-1 over a 10-minute span of the first period, drawing two penalties and taking a lead. Lauri Korpikoski sent Boedker down the right side after a takeaway, and with Keith Yandle charging down the slot as a pass option, Boedker put a wrist shot off Lehtonen's shoulder and into the net at 13:31 to give the Coyotes the first goal for the sixth time in the last seven games. It was Boedker's eighth goal, but his first since Dec. 29 in Colorado.
Photo by Norm Hall.
The Stars regrouped in the second period, putting more pressure on the Phoenix net and nearly scoring before finally snapping Smith's shutout streak.
An apparent goal by Steve Ott at 7:40 was washed out on the ice – and not reviewable – because Adam Burish knocked down a Fistric shot in the slot with a high stick. But when Phoenix defensemen Chris Summers and Michal Rozsival took penalties 44 seconds apart, the Stars finally broke through.
After Dallas failed to score during the five-on-three advantage, Mike Ribeiro's shot from the point was deflected by teammate Loui Eriksson. Smith made the initial save, but Ryder batted the airborne rebound into the net at 12:37 to tie the score. It was the first goal Smith had allowed since Olli Jokinen of Calgary scored on Feb. 9.
Dallas dominated the first 10 minutes of the third period, hemming the Coyotes in their zone shift after shift. But the Stars were able to get only five shots on Smith and he stopped them all before Phoenix finally leveled the ice.
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
Early in the overtime, the Stars won a faceoff but Coyotes forward Ray Whitney stripped the puck from defenseman Mark Fistric behind the Dallas net and fed teammate Radim Vrbata in the slot. Vrbata had plenty of time to wait for Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen to drop to the ice before roofing his fourth game-winner in the last six games and tying Detroit's Johan Franzen for the NHL lead with 10 game-winners.
“He’s a really good goal scorer and that’s what really good goal scorers do," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "That was a huge goal for us. (It was a) great play by Whitney to anticipate the play behind the net. Vrbata, it seems like every time he’s got an opportunity like that this year he’s made it count.”
► Click here to see the KEY MOMENT.
• After the game, Head Coach Dave Tippett said injured centers Martin Hanzal (lower-body) and Kyle Chipchura (upper-body) are considered day-to-day.
• Goalie Mike Smith has won seven games in a row. In those games, Smith has stopped 209 of 216 shots - a .968 save percentage.
• Defenseman Michael Stone, who, along with forward Matt Watkins, was recalled from the American Hockey League earlier in the day, made his NHL debut. Stone was paired with Chris Summers and he played 11:31. He blocked one shot. Watkins was a healthy scratch.
• The Coyotes' next game is Tuesday vs. the Los Angeles kings at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"This team has grown a lot in the last two or three weeks. After the All-Star break, we came back rejuvenated and ready to work, and I really think we came a long way."
"I was running out of room there and I wanted to make sure I had a lane to shoot... I'm just glad those (game-winning) goals are helping our team to get points."
"We had some good chances and then it became a battle of the goalies. When you get that close it's always hard, but I think it was promising the way we played. We were gritty and we worked hard."
• Oct. 10, 2011: DAL 2, PHX 1 (OT) • Feb. 7, 2012: PHX 4, DAL 1
• March 20, 2012:
• Oct. 25, 2011: PHX 3, DAL 2 (OT) • Nov. 26, 2011: PHX 3, DAL 0
• Feb. 18, 2012: PHX 2, DAL 1 (OT)