By Dave Vest | Anthony Perez GLENDALE -- The Coyotes are headed to the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Captain Shane Doan scored the decisive goal in a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks in front of a sellout crowd at Jobing.com Arena on Friday night.
With the victory, the Coyotes (43-25-13) climbed to 99 points in the Western Conference standings with one game left in their regular season – at San Jose on Saturday. Because the standings are so congested, the Coyotes could finish as high as fourth place or as low as seventh when the NHL season ends on Sunday.
"At the start of the year, your goal is to win the division and get into the top eight to give yourself a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "…This year, it didn't happen until the second-to-last game of the season, but we are still in there."
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced to win and overtake Bob Essensa for the top spot on the franchise’s all-time victories list. Bryzgalov has won 130 games for Phoenix since it claimed him off waivers on Nov. 17, 2007.
The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead at the 15:58 mark of the first period when Andrew Ebbett redirected a pass from Kyle Turris past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi for his second goal of the season. The goal came just moments after Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette delivered a crowd-friendly check on Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.
San Jose (47-25-9) responded at the 4:31 mark of the second period when Ian White scored a goal during a four-on-four segment.
The Coyotes answered later in the second period with a pair of even-strength goals scored less than four minutes apart by Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan gave Phoenix a seemingly comfortable three-goal cushion at the 8:22 mark of the third period by scoring a power-play goal through traffic (see KEY MOMENT below).
Photo by Getty Images.
The Sharks, however, mounted rally in the game’s final 12 minutes. At the 9:27 mark, Sharks captain Joe Thornton swatted the puck past Bryzgalov for his 1,000th NHL point. Dany Heatley made things really interesting by cutting Phoenix’s lead to 4-3 with a four-on-four goal at 16:21.
The Sharks pulled Niemi in the closing moments, but the Coyotes were able to hold on and snap an eight-game winless streak vs. San Jose. Bryzgalov made more than one clutch save during the hectic final minute and change.
“Tonight we hung in there,” Tippett said. “I had a real good feeling about today. We gave up a couple of late goals that I wasn't crazy about, but we competed hard and found a way to score some goals on them.”
The victory secured a second straight trip to the playoffs for the Coyotes, who last did it five times in a row from 1996-2000.
Leading 3-1, Coyotes captain Shane Doan scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal with a quick shot from the top of the left circle at 8:22 of the third period. Doan's 20th goal came just 20 seconds after Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray was ushered to the penalty box for holding.
• Center Martin Hanzal returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury in a game played on March 5. Hanzal logged 15:37 of ice time, won 11 of 15 faceoffs and played solid defense. With Hanzal back in the mix, the Coyotes boasted a healthy roster for the first time since Jan. 17.
• The Coyotes had posted a 0-5-3 against the Sharks since beating them 2-1 on Dec. 12, 2009, at Jobing.com Arena.
• The Coyotes' next game is Saturday vs. San Jose at HP Pavilion. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"We didn't want it come down to that last game for sure. It was a playoff game for us. It's crazy that you need 100 points and that we had to play 81 just to have a chance to play some more."
"Now we don't have to look at Dallas or anybody else. We just have to worry about ourselves and playing the best we can. We attacked more tonight, we put pressure on them and we played the way we'll need to play to have success in the playoffs."
"We feel good about our club and we feel confident. We've got three more periods before the big party starts so it's nice. We've got back-to-back games. (We'll) go home and play these guys right back again."