By Dave Vest
TORONTO – Playing in the city many consider the center of the hockey universe, the upstart Coyotes erupted for four goals in the second period and cruised past this town’s beloved Maple Leafs, 6-3, Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Petr Prucha scored twice, and Keith Yandle and Martin Hanzal each had three assists to lead Phoenix (20-12-2) to its seventh victory in its past nine games and its fourth consecutive win over Toronto.
By all accounts in the Coyotes dressing room, the triumph was much needed after a lackluster outing in Detroit on Monday.
"It was a good bounce-back game," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We certainly didn't play anywhere close to where I think we needed to play in Detroit, and our players recognized that and we bounced back and had a pretty good effort tonight. It was nice to put some goals on the board, that's for sure. That's a rarity for us. To put some goals on the board and play with the lead for a change was a much better way to go about it."
Phoenix built a 5-1 lead and then let Toronto pull to within 5-3 in the third period. Vrbata’s empty-net goal with 12 seconds left, his fourth goal in four games, secured the victory.
Phil Kessel, Jamal Mayers and Alexei Ponikarovsky scored for Toronto (12-15-7).
Prucha opened the scoring at 13:33 of the first period by beating Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala with a wrist shot late in Phoenix’s first of two power plays. Yandle’s slap pass to Prucha from the point was fine, and Prucha didn’t waste it.
Nor did Prucha waste a dandy scoring chance early in the second period when he swept a loose puck near the left goal post into the net with Toskala on his back for a 2-0 lead.
After Mayers beat Bryzgalov a minute later to cap a breakaway, Fiddler extended Phoenix’s lead to 3-1 by backhanding a loose puck at the base of the left circle through Toskala’s legs at 7:10 of the second period.
Bissonnette and Upshall scored their goals later in the second period to give Phoenix a cozy 5-1 lead.
Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette's goal - a nifty redirection at 11:39 of the second period - seemed like icing on the cake for Phoenix at the time he scored it, but it turned out to be the game-winning goal.
That was just fine with Bissonnette, whose father made the hour-long drive from their hometown of Welland, Ontario, to see his son play in an NHL game for the first time.
"I couldn't really have mapped it out better," Bissonnette said. "I'm just excited that I played well for him, and I told him I'm going to have to fly him down (to Phoenix) for some more games."
• The six goals tied a season-high for the Coyotes. Phoenix also scored six times in its season opener on Oct. 3 at Los Angeles.
• Toronto native Daniel Winnik notched two assists in his first regular-season NHL game played at the Air Canada Centre.
• Captain Shane Doan played in his 999th NHL game. Doan will play his 1,000th game on Thursday at Columbus.
• The two-goal performance by Petr Prucha was the eighth two-goal game of his NHL career. He has yet to score more than two goals in one game.
• The Coyotes scratched Peter Mueller and David Schlemko. Both are healthy. Toronto scratched Jonas Gustavsson and Luke Schenn.
"I was thinking about getting a hat trick a little bit at the very end when they had an open net, but I didn't get the chance to be on the ice for very long. But we won and that's what matters."
"We played a pretty good, solid game and it was nice to get a few goals to keep (Ilya Bryzgalov) at ease. He's been shutting teams down... It was good to give him a little breathing room."
"They were kind of swarming everywhere, in our zone and in their zone and they made us look pretty bad. No bounces went our way and they got a few their way."
• Dec. 16, 2009: PHX 6, TOR 3
1 - 0 PHX
2 - 0 PHX
2 - 1 PHX
3 - 1 PHX
4 - 1 PHX
5 - 1 PHX
5 - 2 PHX