By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes beat the Dallas Stars, 3-2, Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena in Head Coach Dave Tippett’s first game against the club he led to the NHL playoffs five times in the past six seasons.
Tippett was noticeably pleased to defeat his former team. Asked if it was a special victory, Tippett said: "You’d be lying to say it wasn’t."
He added, "I want to beat them. I've moved on hockey-wise, and they've moved on. I liken it a little bit to when brothers play against each other. When the puck drops, you play (and) whatever side you're on, (your'e) trying to win."
Vrbata’s goal at 3:35 of the third period gave the Coyotes a 3-1 lead, but Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen fired a shot through traffic and past Bryzgalov at 7:02 to pull the Stars (8-5-6) to within a goal.
Phoenix killed four Dallas power plays in the third period, including a frantic one very late in the game (See KEY MOMENT below).
"I thought there was a couple of calls that were questionable but I like the way our guys dug in and we battled through it," Tippett said. "That’s a good hockey team over there... They’ve got some high-end forwards that can make things tough on you. I thought our guys battled right to the end, goaltender included.”
Stars forward James Neal nearly tied the score at 3 midway through the third period, but his shot hit the left post.
Lang, who backhanded a shot off the crossbar with five seconds left in the first period, gave Phoenix a 1-0 lead 12 seconds into the second when he banged a rebound past Stars goalie Marty Turco after two quick shots on goal by Peter Mueller. The goal was Lang’s fifth of the season and his second in two games.
Stars center Mike Modano also extended his goal-scoring streak to two games at 6:12 of the second period when he backhanded a shot to Bryzgalov’s right, off the left post and into the Coyotes net. Linemate Mike Ribeiro set up the play with a nice pass to Modano just inside the right circle from the right boards.
Schlemko scored a goal – his first in the NHL - with 23.4 seconds left in the second period. His wrist shot from the left circle hit the bottom of the left post, clanked off it and into the Stars net.
Aggressive forechecking by both teams created numerous odd-man rushes in the first period, but neither team managed to get any of their shots past the goaltenders.
Leading 3-2 in the third period, Coyotes center Martin Hanzal was called for holding at 18:55. Stars Head Coach Marc Crawford immediately pulled goalie Marty Turco to give Dallas two extra attackers. The Stars kept the puck in the Phoenix zone for most of the power play, but goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and his penalty killers preserved the victory.
• Captain Shane Doan was awarded a penalty shot at 9:51 of the second period after being hooked on a breakaway by Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas. Doan skated down the slot at Stars goalie Marty Turco but lost control of the puck at the last moment and it hit Turco’s left pad and trickled away. It was the fourth penalty shot of Doan’s career. He is 0 for 4.
• Shane Doan’s penalty shot was Phoenix’s first since Keith Yandle took one on Feb. 10, 2008 against Nashville. Yandle failed to score. Radim Vrbata was the last Coyotes player to score on a penalty shot (Dec. 29, 2007 vs. Detroit).
• The Coyotes were called for delay of game when defenseman Sami Lepisto flipped the puck over the glass at 6:34 of the first period. It was Phoenix’s seventh delay-of-game penalty in the past seven games.
• Defenseman Sami Lepisto played nearly 25 minutes and took a team-high five shots on goal.
• Center Matthew Lombardi won 10 of 14 faceoffs.
• The Coyotes scratched Ed Jovanovski and Petr Prucha. Both are nursing lower-body injuries. The Stars scratched Fabian Brunnstrom, Jere Lehtinen, and Brian Sutherby.
• NASCAR driver Ryan Newman attended the game on the eve of the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"Little bit of a monkey off my back... I had a few good chances (to score) the first few games, so it definitely felt good to get that first one.”
“It was tough... I was so surprised to have an open net like that I almost missed it. But it went in and I’m happy.”
"(Tippett) was great. We certainly had a great time together... But once we got to the rink I really didn’t think about it."