By Dave Vest GLENDALE - Newcomers Wojtek Wolski and Lee Stempniak wasted little time endearing themselves to Coyotes fans by scoring key goals in their debuts with Phoenix Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.
Wolski netted his goal with just 23 seconds left in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and lift the Coyotes to a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, the team that sent Wolski to Phoenix on Wednesday in a trade for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter.
The victory snapped Phoenix’s three-game losing streak.
Wolski is one of four players who joined the Coyotes (38-22-5) on Wednesday via trades and played Thursday. Stempniak, Petteri Nokelainen and Derek Morris, now in his second stint with Phoenix, were the others.
Stempniak, acquired Wednesday from Toronto, gave Phoenix a 1-0 lead when he took a behind-the-net pass from Vernon Fiddler and beat Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson with a shot at 6:13 of the first period. It was a long day for Stempniak, who woke up in Toronto and didn’t arrive in Phoenix until after the morning skate.
Phoenix’s 1-0 lead stuck until Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles beat Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with a wrist shot during a power play late in the second period.
The game seemed destined to go to overtime until Wolski parlayed a nifty pass from Coyotes captain Shane Doan into his 18th goal of the season from the left circle at 19:37 of third period. Radim Vrbata added an empty-net goal with one second left.
“It was nice to see contributions from the new players, but right now this is a work in progress,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “Overall, we have to play better. We'll continue to tweak things until we get it right.”
The Avalanche (36-22-6) were attempting to leapfrog the Coyotes in the Western Conference standings. Instead the loss dropped them three points behind Phoenix, which climbed from fifth place to fourth place with its victory.
“I thought we played hard and thought we competed,” Colorado Head Coach Joe Sacco said. “Considering we played the night before (at Anaheim), I thought it was a great game. I like the way we're playing. It was a tough way to lose a hockey game, no question about it.”
Leading 1-0, Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made several key saves while down on the ice right around the midway point of the second period to keep the Avalanche scoreless. Colorado’s Marek Svatos made several whacks at the loose puck in front of the crease during the sequence, but Bryzgalov did not let the puck sneak past him.
• Ilya Bryzgalov made 23 saves and earned his 33rd victory of the season to tie a franchise record for wins in a season by a goalie. Bryzgalov is tied with Sean Burke, Bob Essensa and Brian Hayward.
• The Coyotes played minus alternate captain/defenseman Ed Jovanovski who suffered a minor upper-body injury after being checked by TJ Oshie of the St. Louis Blues during Tuesday night's game. Jovanovski is expected to skate with teammates at Friday's practice and likely will play Saturday vs. Anaheim.
"It feels awesome to get the win. It’s so important. I think for myself to get a goal really means a lot."
"As a new guy you want to come in and sort of prove your worth right away, but you obviously can’t do it in one game… To get a goal and be part of a big win certainly helps."
"It was really strange (playing vs. Phoenix). It happened so quickly, the last few days. It’s been surreal. This is one of the games where not just me, but everyone wanted to win. It stings a little bit right now."
• Nov. 4, 2009: COL 4 , PHX 1
• Feb. 12, 2010: COL 2, PHX 1
• March 4, 2010: PHX 3, COL 1
• March 27, 2010: TICKETS
1 - 0 PHX
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PHX
3 - 1 PHX
Interference on goalkeeper