GLENDALE – While the Detroit Red Wings are finding their stride and sharpening their special-teams play for the stretch drive, the Phoenix Coyotes are fading from the Western Conference playoff picture and searching for answers.
And when Pavel Datsyuk is in the vicinity, all the Coyotes seem to locate is trouble.
Datsyuk helped set up Johan Franzen's power-play goal late in the second period and scored the game-winner on the power play 6:12 into the third, as the Red Wings rallied from a 2-1 deficit Monday for a 3-2 victory, sending the reeling Coyotes to their sixth straight loss.
Datsyuk, who collected his 500th NHL point in Anaheim on Friday, continues to haunt the Coyotes. He now has 14 goals and 57 points in 39 career games against Phoenix – the most he has collected against any team outside the Central Division. The Red Wings have now won five straight on the road and three in the last four days – following up a two-game sweep of the Ducks in Anaheim with another victory.
Ian White also scored for Detroit. After going six games in a row without a power-play goal, Detroit has at least one in eight straight games, going 5-2-1 and solidifying its playoff position.
"Our specialty teams in the first (half of the season) were awful – both our power play and penalty kill," Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock said. "Changing (coaching) staff and with a lot of new players and you put it all together and it takes some time. It never went in the net for us, so now it's going in the net and it was a good part of today's game."
The Coyotes had a golden chance to tie the score with 4:12 left in regulation when Lauri Korpikoski was awarded his first career penalty shot after being taken down from behind by Detroit's Jakub Kindl on a shorthanded breakaway. But Detroit goalie Jonas Gustavsson stopped Korpikoski with a glove save to preserve the lead and Detroit's win.
"I just tried to be patient and wait (Korpikoski) out," said Gustavsson, who made 29 saves in his sixth appearance on an injury-plagued season. "I tried not to be too deep before he made his first move and it paid off."
Martin Hanzal and Rob Klinkhammer scored first-period goals for the Coyotes, who are 0-5-1 in their last six games – their longest losing streak in Head Coach Dave Tippett's four-year tenure – and fell four points behind San Jose for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Tippett pointed to the game-winning goal, when Henrik Zetterberg's pass across the crease from behind the net deflected off Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko's skate and right to Datsyuk, as an example of the black cloud that is following his team. The power play was set up by a bench minor penalty that was also a bad-luck scenario.
"The too many men on the ice (penalty) is a play that happens 100 times a game – one guy goes in one door, one guy goes out the other door, and the puck comes to the guy that steps on the ice (Boyd Gordon) as Hanzal is crawling off.
"Then we're kind of where we're supposed to be (on the Datsyuk goal), but it goes off of Schlemmer's skate and it goes right to the wrong guy. It's a bad break, and mistakes like that are coming back to bite us right now. It's frustrating. We're saying all the right things; we're just not getting it done."
Jason LaBarbera, subbing for the injured Mike Smith, made 32 saves in a losing effort and played well, but Franzen's goal with 38.6 seconds left in the second period – set up by Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall – took the wind out of the Coyotes.
"We played well, but it's just one of those things where we're finding a way to lose games," said LaBarbera, now 1-5 this season. "We're not getting the bounces around their net and they're getting the bounces around ours."
Phoenix fell behind for the sixth straight game when White let a shot go through traffic and beat LaBarbera to the blocker side at 4:01. But the goal seemed to light a fire under the Coyotes.
After a blast from the point by Phoenix defenseman Michael Stone ping-ponged off both posts, Radim Vrbata's power-play shot from the half wall found Hanzal just outside the crease, and he re-directed the puck by Gustavsson at 7:56 for his seventh goal in the last seven regular season games against Detroit.
It was Phoenix's first first-period goal since a March 12 win against the Kings – but they weren't done. Gustavsson stopped a Keith Yandle bomb from the point and a David Moss rebound, but was down and out when Klinkhammer roofed his third goal in seven games as a Coyote at 12:17.
The Coyotes failed to build on their first lead in almost two weeks, missed several opportunities with a shaky Gustavsson surrendering rebounds left and right. And when Stone took a high-sticking penalty with just over two minutes left in the period, Franzen cashed in on the power-play and the Red Wings took all the momentum to the third.
FIVE FOR PHOENIX
1. Forward Rob Klinkhammer scored his third goal of the season in just his seventh game with the team.
2. Defenseman Keith Yandle took a game-high six shots on goal. He leads the team with 97 shots on goal.
3. Captain Shane Doan added five hits to his season total. He leads the team with 86 hits.
5. The Coyotes lost for the first time in five games this season while wearing their alternate (black) sweaters.