By Dave Vest
DETROIT -- The Coyotes, playing without two key forwards in front of hostile fans in a storied rink, didn’t miss a beat on Sunday afternoon and defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 4-2, in Game 3 of their best-of-seven playoff series at Joe Louis Arena.
Phoenix leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Tuesday night here in Motown.
"I just thought we were better with the puck tonight," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said, "and that gives you an opportunity to forecheck, gives you an opportunity to attack a little bit more."
Petr Prucha and Radim Vrbata each notched a goal and an assist, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 29 of 31 shots to lead Phoenix to arguably its most impressive victory in franchise history.
Already playing without center/star penalty killer Vernon Fiddler (upper-body injury), the Coyotes lost captain Shane Doan to an undisclosed injury early in the second period with the score knotted at 1.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to read more about the injuries to Doan and Fiddler.)
The Coyotes, whose identity this season is based on overcoming adversity, were not fazed.
“From where we've come, a couple of injuries is not going to deter us right now,” Tippett said. “That's the mind-set.”
With their captain in the dressing room, Phoenix took the lead for good when forward Wojtek Wolski backhanded a rebound past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with 32 seconds left in the second period. Prucha later bumped the lead to 3-1 at 8:16 of the third period to cap one of the prettiest give-and-go exchanges of the season (see KEY MOMENT below).
Detroit’s Johan Franzen pulled Detroit to within 3-2 on the next shot after Prucha’s, but Vrbata restored Phoenix’s two-goal cushion by beating Howard with a wrister on the first shot after Franzen’s.
“It's interesting how the perception from you people is we're supposed to just crush them,” Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock told reporters after the game. “They're a good team, too.”
He added, “They just got better. With no Fiddler and no Doan, they had the puck more than we did.”
The Coyotes quieted the raucous crowd almost immediately after the puck was dropped when defenseman Sami Lepisto gathered a loose puck in the slot and fired it past Howard 29 seconds into the first period.
Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula tied the score 1-1 with a power-play goal later in the first period while Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski sat in the penalty box for elbowing.
The Red Wings had two would-be goals waved off.
“That had nothing to do with the game,” Babcock said. “They beat us.”
With the Coyotes leading 2-1, Petr Prucha scored the game-winning goal at 8:16 of the third period.
Center Martin Hanzal helped set up the goal by winning a face-off in Phoenix’s zone. Radim Vrbata quickly gained control of the puck and skated it into the neutral zone. He passed it ahead to Prucha near the red line and Prucha returned the puck backward to Vrbata by banking it off the boards along the left wing. Vrbata quickly returned the puck to Prucha, who skated behind defenders, crossed the slot and beat Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard with a gentle forehand shot.
• Forward Wojtek Wolski has scored a goal in each of the first three games of this series. That matches his playoff-goal total in 15 games with Colorado before this season.
• Sami Lepisto's goal at 0:29 of the first period set a franchise mark for the fastest goal in a playoff game. The old record was held by Randy Carlyle, who scored a goal 53 seconds into a game for Winnipeg against Edmonton on April 25, 1985. Lepisto’s goal was his first NHL playoff goal.
• Forward Lee Stempniak and defenseman Zbynek Michalek each notched an assist. It was the first point in the NHL playoffs for both players.
• The Coyotes played on NBC for the first time.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette, Vernon Fiddler, Mathieu Schneider, Viktor Tikhonov and Jim Vandermeer. The Red Wings scratched Doug Janik, Jakub Kindl, Daniel Larsson, Brett Lebda, Brad May, Thomas McCollum, Derek Meech, Logan Pyett, Mattias Ritola and Jason Williams.
"Our whole season's been a team effort. We didn't know if (Shane Doan) was coming back. We just kept playing. You just have to worry about yourself and the bench. He's a big part of our team, but you're winning as a team."
"We never give up. You never know what's going to happen. We have some players who can step up. We believe in ourselves and we believe in our system. We need two more wins."
"I thought we let him (goalie Jimmy Howard) out to dry on a couple of occasions. You want to do a better job of helping him out. It looked like they were going to the net a little bit harder than they did in Game 2."
• GAME 3: PHX 4, DET 2
• GAME 4: April 20, 2010
• GAME 6: April 25, 2010*
• GAME 1: PHX 3, DET 2
• GAME 2: DET 7, PHX 4
• GAME 5: April 23, 2010
• GAME 7: April 27, 2010*
1 - 0 PHX
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PHX
3 - 1 PHX
3 - 2 PHX
4 - 2 PHX
Holding the stick