By Dave Vest LOS ANGELES -- The Coyotes wanted to make a statement in their regular-season opener that the NHL team many have left for dead in the desert after a long and extraordinary off-season is indeed alive and well. They did that with a resounding 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
With new Head Coach Dave Tippett behind the bench and seven new players in uniform, Phoenix built a 3-0 lead and didn’t look back. Eleven of Phoenix's 18 skaters had at least one point in its lopsided road victory.
“That will be exactly what we have to have, right there,” Tippett said after the game. "... We're going to have to have contributions right through our lineup and I thought that's what we had tonight. And not just offensively, but (we were) strong defensively."
Radim Vrbata scored twice in his first game back with the Coyotes, including the first goal of the game at 5:31 of the first period to set the tone. With LA defenseman Drew Doughty in the penalty box for holding, Vrbata skated the puck into LA’s zone and ripped a shot past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick from the right circle with 49 seconds left in the power play.
Matthew Lombardi and Daniel Winnik followed Vrbata’s lead and scored goals to give Phoenix a 3-0 edge. Lombardi lit the lamp by backhanding a centering pass off LA’s Matt Greene and past Quick at 17:48 of the first period. Moments after being denied by Quick from in close, Winnik got even by deflecting a shot from the right point by Zbynek Michalek past Quick at 8:22 of the second.
The Coyotes led 4-2 after two periods and did not allow the Kings to mount even a hint of a rally in the final 20 minutes. Scottie Upshall and Robert Lang converted sloppy LA passes into unassisted goals early in the third and the Kings were done.
With the LA fans just starting to get back into the game after Ryan Smyth scored to cut Phoenix’s lead to 3-1, the Coyotes killed the renewed buzz late in the second period when Petr Prucha created a turnover inside LA's zone and then fed the puck to Vrbata who notched his second goal at 14:08. Vrbata's shot from the left circle hit Quick in his mid-section, but the puck dropped to the ice, slid behind Quick and inched across the line.
• The Coyotes signed center Vernon Fiddler during the off-season mostly because of his skills in the faceoff circles. He displayed them nicely in the opener, winning 12 of 15 draws.
• All three of LA’s goals came on power plays: Regarding the poor penalty killing, Tippett did not seem too concerned: "It's early," he said. "There are some things that we've got to continue to tweak."
• Vrbata posted a team-high six shots on goal. It was the 12th multi-goal game of his career.
• The Coyotes have triumphed five times in their past six regular-season openers.
• Upshall committed three of Phoenix's five penalties. At least he mixed them up a little bit: slashing, roughing and holding.
• Forward Paul Bissonnette and defenseman Sami Lepisto were the healthy scratches for Phoenix. LA scratched defensemen Peter Harrold and Sean O'Donnell, who is sitting out a two-game suspension.
"The first goal gave me confidence and we played well overall. I’m just glad I could help. And if we’re going to play like this (every game), we can surprise a lot of people.”
"We stuck to our system... It definitely showed that we were a controlled group playing with controlled emotions. That was the difference for us."
"... We have to bear down on any chances that we get and there’s not many of those. Every team in the league is good and it’s going to limit the chances."
• Oct. 3, 2009: PHX 6, LA 3
• Dec. 10, 2009:
• April 8, 2010: