By Dave Vest GLENDALE – The Coyotes refuse to lose.
Radim Vrbata scored the lone goal of a three-round shootout Saturday night to lift Phoenix to a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Jobing.com Arena.
The triumph was Phoenix’s eighth in a row and it moved the Coyotes (45-22-5) to just one point behind first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division standings and two points behind the Blackhawks (45-19-7), who lead the Western Conference with 97 points.
Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp scored goals 73 seconds apart to give Chicago a 4-2 lead early in the third period. But the Coyotes rallied in front of a sellout crowd.
Lee Stempniak knocked a rebound past Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi at 6:53 of the third to pull Phoenix to within 4-3. Chicago protected that lead for exactly eight minutes until Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin sent a wrist shot past Niemi from the low slot to knot the score at 4.
Bryzgalov, who looked shaky on Chicago’s third goal, redeemed himself - and then some - by making a fantastic save in the overtime period (see KEY MOMENT below) and three more in the shootout against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Sharp.
Phoenix went first in the shootout, and after Wojetk Wolski and Lauri Korpikoski failed to score goals, Vrbata flipped a backhanded shot over Niemi and under the water bottle for the game-deciding goal. Vrbata was the shootout hero on Thursday, too, when the Coyotes rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Florida, 4-3, in a shootout to cap a perfect four-game trip.
"We came into this game thinking we were going to win," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said with a smile. "…it just took a while to come around."
He added, "I thought it was a very entertaining hockey game. I thought for coming back from the road trip our energy was good but our execution wasn’t very good early in the game. Our passing was poor and we just couldn’t put anything together to give us any flow in the game… We didn’t get a lot of chances early, but we found a little bit of a second wind in the third period and I like the way our guys played in the third.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to watch Tippett's post-game press conference.
Tippett's good friend and counterpart, Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville, was troubled by his team's inability to beat the Coyotes for the third time in three tries this season.
"We know we're going to score goals," Quenneville told reporters. "... We've got to play defense."
With just over a minute left in overtime, Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov robbed Chicago's Patrick Kane of scoring the game-winning goal by making a sensational save with his right pad. Bryzgalov finished with 34 saves in 65 minutes, and three more in the shootout.
• Center Matthew Lombardi had a chance to end the game at 1:15 of overtime, but he could not put a penalty shot past Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi. Lombardi was awarded the penalty shot after he was pulled down by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.
• Center Vernon Fiddler seemingly scored the game-winning goal with 17.1 seconds left in overtime. Fiddler, stationed in front of Chicago’s net, directed the puck over the goal line with his foot, but referee Tim Peel ruled that Fiddler kicked the puck into the net and the video officials concurred.
• The Coyotes need just one more win to match the franchise record for consecutive victories set in 1984-85.
• The game was played in front of a season-high crowd of 17,534 spectators.
• Forward Lee Stempniak scored two more goals. In eight games since coming to the Coyotes in a trade with Toronto, Stempniak has scored nine goals. By comparison, Stempniak scored 14 goals for Toronto in 62 games of this season. (Click here to read more about Stempniak's impressive start with Phoenix.)
• Captain Shane Doan assisted on Wojtek Wolski’s goal at 9:20 of the second period. It was Doan’s 400th assist in the NHL. Wolski later added an assist for his 200th point in the NHL.