By Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent
GLENDALE-- It’s been three weeks since Coyotes center Daymond Langkow played a hockey game - and they've been three of the hardest weeks of his life. But his first step on the ice Saturday was the first step back to normalcy, and the smiles that come with a winning locker room were just what he needed.
When Langkow's mother, Vivian, died on Nov. 8, his attention immediately turned to matters that made hockey totally insignificant. Traveling home to Edmonton. Planning funeral arrangements and ceremonies. Comforting family and recovering from the tragedy himself.
But it was finally time for hockey again on Saturday, and Langkow returned ready to play. He assisted on two of the Coyotes' three goals and was named No. 2 star as Phoenix blanked the banged-up Dallas Stars, 3-0, at Jobing.com Arena.
One night after the Coyotes were throttled 5-0 at home by Vancouver, Langkow's return gave them added jump, allowed them to reconfigure their lines and led to their eighth win in 10 games when coming off a loss this season (8-1-1).
"I didn't know what to expect. I just tried to prepare myself as best I could and it felt good," Langkow said. "My linemates played great, and that obviously helps. It's a huge bounce-back game for us. It was a tough one last night but those games happen. You don't want to have it slide and start losing games.”
Langkow said it was difficult to play for the first time without his mom watching, but he's starting to feel better.
"Unfortunately, it's part of life but you have to battle through it and I think the best way to do that is to get back with your regular routine,” he said. “It definitely feels good to be back with the guys."
Coyotes captain Shane Doan marveled at his close friend and linemate.
"I can't say enough good things about him as a man, let alone a hockey player. The type of person that he is and the strength he has is remarkable," Doan said. "I'm privileged to be his friend, and to get to know him and see him play the way he did tonight makes you so happy for him."
After blowing leads in the final 61 seconds of regulation and losing in overtime to Dallas twice earlier this season, the Coyotes played a full 60 minutes on Saturday. A 26-save shutout from ex-Star Mike Smith made sure there would be no implosion this time.
Dallas (13-9-1) lost not only the game but three more players to injury in what is becoming an epidemic. The big blow came when star goaltender Kari Lehtonen suffered a groin injury while making a routine blocker save on a shot by Derek Morris just 5:31 into the game.
Photo by Norm Hall
A huge reason for Dallas' fast start this season, Lehtonen was helped off the ice, unable to put weight on his right leg, and was replaced by backup Andrew Raycroft. Before the period was out, Dallas also lost defenseman Trevor Daley to a back injury and center Vernon Fiddler left the game as well in the second period with a groin injury. Already without captain Brenden Morrow (back), winger Adam Burish (hand) and defenseman Alex Goligoski (thumb), the injury-ravaged Stars are 2-6-1 since opening the season with 11 wins in their first 14 games.
With Lehtonen gone, the Coyotes turned up the offensive heat on Raycroft, who dropped to 0-5-0 this season, and finally cashed in. Tied 0-0, Langkow chased down his own draw and fed Yandle for a shot at the top of the point. Raycroft stopped it but got tangled with defenseman Stephane Robidas as the puck fell behind them in the crease. Boedker was on the spot to sweep in his fourth goal at 15:05, one of 16 shots Phoenix produced in the period.
The Coyotes doubled their lead in the second period, when Raycroft was a bit too aggressive in his challenge on Radim Vrbata's approach. Vrbata fed Whitney, who had open ice between Raycroft and the near post and slid in his seventh goal of the season and No. 348 in his career at 6:02.
Phoenix iced the game 10:28 into the third period. Langkow wasn't able to get Lauri Korpikoski's centering pass on net, but Pyatt gathered it and put it past Raycroft.
Smith, a hard-luck loser in both previous overtime losses to the Stars, recorded his second shutout of the season and the 13th of his career. He has yet to lose in regulation to his former team (3-0-3).
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
Leading 1-0 in the second period, Coyotes forwards Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata maneuvered the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone with a series of crisp passes to each other. Whitney capped the passing exchange with a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle past Stars goalie Andrew Raycroft at 6:02.
• Center Daymond Langkow, who missed eight straight games because of the death of his mother, returned to the lineup. Langkow played 17:14, took a team-high five shots on goal and chipped in two assists. It was his first multi-point game of the season.
Photo by Norm Hall.
• Forward Mikkel Boedker scored his fourth goal of the season in the first period to match his goal total from 2010-11.
• Forward Taylor Pyatt scored a goal in the third period to end a 10-game point-less drought.
• Center Kyle Turris will travel with the team on its two-game trip to Chicago and Winnipeg next week and not report to the team's American Hockey League affiliate on Sunday for a conditioning assignment as originally planned. Turris has reported to the Coyotes in excellent shape despite missing the first seven weeks of the season.
• The Coyotes' next game is Tuesday vs. Chicago at the United Center. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).
"We lost two games to them in the final minute and that sticks in the back of your head. Getting the shutout was obviously a bonus, but it was a big win for our team tonight."
"We needed a boost, and (Daymond) Langkow came in and gave us some real good minutes. He's a real solid veteran player who recognizes what he needs to do on the ice and does it well. He's a very well-liked, well-respected guy."
"We just really didn’t have it tonight. The injuries didn’t help. When you go down a goalie, and then down to five (defensemen) in the first four minutes or whatever it is, it’s pretty tough against a team that works so hard down low."
• Oct. 10, 2011: DAL 2, PHX 1 (SO) • Feb. 7, 2012:
• March 20, 2012: