By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes celebrated before and after Saturday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings at Jobing.com Arena.
Before the match, the team officially honored captain Shane Doan for playing 1,000 NHL games with a heart-warming ceremony. After the match, the nearly-packed arena saluted all of the Coyotes for a thrilling 3-2 victory, their ninth in a row on home ice.
It may be cornier than Nebraska, but Doan’s teammates were determined not to lose on their captain’s special night.
“Shane Doan has put in so much to this organization and has helped so many guys in that room and these guys, they feel that,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “These guys like Shane Doan. He’s been a great leader for them and they don’t want to let him down... You could see the guys watching that (pre-game ceremony) stuff from the bench and it’s very meaningful. Nobody in this organization has put more work in than Shane Doan and that was recognized tonight.”
Defenseman Keith Yandle, who sits next to Doan in the dressing room and looks up to him, scored the game-winning goal when he knocked the rebound of his own shot past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick at 9:20 of the third period.
Two of Phoenix’s goals were scored by defensemen. Adrian Aucoin tied the score at 1 in the first period when he ripped a slap shot past Quick from the mid-slot.
"They're part of the committee," Tippett said of the team's blueliners, who have scored 24 of Phoenix’s 103 goals this season. “They're not getting off the hook. We've got pretty good balance. That's kind of who we are and what we have to be, and our defensemen aren't exempted from that."
Leading 3-2, the Coyotes (24-13-2) put themselves in a pickle by taking two penalties in the final 2:04 of the third period. After center Matthew Lombardi was called for hooking at 17:56, defenseman Jim Vandermeer was called for tripping at 19:10. The pair sat in the penalty box together and watched the final moments unfold as the Kings pulled Quick to gain a six-on-three advantage. Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made a few key saves to preserve the lead/victory.
The Kings entered the game, their first since Dec. 17, well rested. They took a 1-0 lead at 5:49 of the first period when captain Dustin Brown backhanded a rebound past Bryzgalov.
After Aucoin’s goal tied the score, Coyotes center Martin Hanzal notched a fluke goal to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead with 6:04 left in the first period. Hanzal won a faceoff in LA’s zone and eventually lifted the loose puck over Quick and the outstretched arm of Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, and into the LA goal.
The Kings tied the score early in the third period when Michael Handzus knocked a rebound past Brzagalov midway through a power play.
Doan had a few nice chances to score on his big night.
In the second period, Scottie Upshall fed him a pass and Doan skated in on Quick on a breakaway. His shot on goal sailed wide to the right. Later in the second period, Doan fired a slapper past Quick from the left point, but the puck hit the right post and deflected away.
After the game, Doan seemed unfazed by not scoring. Beating the Kings (22-13-3), who are just three points behind Phoenix in the Western Conference standings, meant more to him.
"It was not only sweet to win, but we know where they're at and they know where we are and it's close,” Doan said. “Every single came counts so much and we've got to find ways to keep winning."
The game was delayed for quite a while early in the first period after Kings forward Justin Williams was checked by Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski and crumpled to the ice. Williams, who fell awkwardly, had to be removed on a stretcher. After the game, Kings Head Coach Terry Murray said Williams had suffered a broken leg.
The Coyotes officially honored captain Shane Doan before the game for recently playing in his 1,000th NHL game - all with the Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise.
"It was very special," Doan said. "It was incredible having my wife and kids on the ice. That's such a unique thing. You never have your wife and kids on the ice with you before a game so to have them on the ice while I'm playing is pretty special. It was great."
• Forward Daniel Winnik suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not play in the third period. On Sunday morning, the Coyotes placed Winnik on the injured reserve list. He is listed as week-to-week.
Winnik entered Saturday's game co-leading the team in plus/minus at +10.
• The Coyotes have won nine home games in a row. That streak
matches the franchise record set from Dec. 27, 1992, to Jan. 23, 1993, when the team was based in Winnipeg. Phoenix can set a new franchise record on Tuesday when it hosts Vancouver.
• Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 23 of 25 shots to earn the 100th victory of his NHL career.