Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin scored the game-deciding goal in the fourth round of a shootout Thursday night to lead the Coyotes to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.
For Aucoin, whom teammates and Head Coach Dave Tippett have likened to a highly reliable relief pitcher in baseball, the tally was his sixth shootout-deciding goal. He had missed his past two shootout tries after making five in a row at one point.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to listen to Aucoin discuss the shootout and more.
Coyotes backup goalie Jason LaBarbera stopped 22 shots in 65 minutes in his first game at the Staples Center since being traded by the Kings to Vancouver last season. Only first-round shooter Anze Kopitar beat LaBarbera, who after the game admitted to being anxious about playing in LA, in the shootout. Phoenix got goals from Aucoin and Radim Vrbata (see KEY MOMENT below).
The victory was Phoenix’s third in a row and 50th of the season. It was an impressive triumph considering LA led the game, 2-0, with less than eight minutes left in the third period.
Coyotes forwards Matthew Lombardi and Taylor Pyatt scored goals 84 seconds apart to force overtime, which Phoenix dominated.
“We got down by a couple of goals and in the third period and we kind of threw everything at them,” Tippett said. “There’s not a lot of quit in these guys. They enjoy working hard and they want to work hard for 60 minutes – or 65 minutes – whatever it takes.”
The Kings (45-27-8), who like the Coyotes have earned their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2002, built a 2-0 lead thanks to pretty goals by defensemen Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson.
But the Coyotes (50-25-6), who are playing solely to fuel momentum what with the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs firmly in hand, rallied for a victory.
"We can't say we're surprised," said Pyatt, who redirected a shot from the point by defenseman Zbynek Michalek past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to tie the score at 2 with 5:53 left in regulation. "We've been winning this type of game all season long."
Quick stopped 25 shots, but he failed to earn his franchise-record 40th victory for the seventh time.
"I liked his game," Kings Head Coach Terry Murray said. "I thought he was alert, he was sharp, he made some good stops.”
The only downer for the Coyotes was another unproductive night for the power-play unit. Phoenix was 0 for 6 with a man advantage and is now 0 for 20 in its past four games.
“It’s not working right now,” Aucoin said. “We’re not in sync, we’re not getting shots. You’ve got to be persistent and stick with it. It’ll come.”
If Adrian Aucoin is "The Closer" when it comes to shootouts, then somebody shoud start calling Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata "The Set-Up Man." Again needing to score a goal to prolong a shootout, Vrbata did just that by lifting a slick, back-handed shot that made Kings goalie Jonathan Quick look silly.
• The Coyotes improved to an NHL-leading 14-5 in shootouts and 29-6-6 in one-goal games.
The Coyotes are 8-4-1 in the second of back-to-back games this season.
Paul Bissonnette, who hadn't played since March 14, was inserted back into the lineup and fought Los Angeles enforcer Raitis Ivanans in the second period. It was Bissonnette's 19th bout of the season.
The Coyotes will play the Kings in the first round of the playoffs if LA beats Edmonton and Colorado this weekend.
• Thursday's game was the 200th NHL game for defenseman Keith Yandle.
"I don't like them (shootouts) at all... I kind of changed my mind-set with it. I just want to be more of a street-hockey goalie and get away from being too technical with it and just kind of stop the puck instead of worrying about timing and all the other stuff that goes with it."
"I just figured this goalie probably hadn't seen too many hockey highlights being in LA and that he hadn't seen my special move."
"We're trying to move up in the standings, and hopefully if we move up as far as we can, if we keep winning games here, we play these guys next week (in the playoffs)."