The Phoenix Coyotes looked to start off the second half of their season well tonight in a meeting against the Dallas Stars. Coming into the game, the Stars have had a couple of good games and great offensive numbers since February. The Coyotes came into the game having dropped 2 games in regulation.
The first period showed that the Coyotes players took the coaching messages to heart as they were playing the right kind of hockey. They played a great cycle game with good defensive awareness and a commitment to do some of the little things. The Coyotes even brought their physical game as Torres leveled Smith from the Stars to really up the intensity of the game. At 16:59 in the period, Oliver Ekman-Larsson received a pass from Steve Sullivan at the blue line and decided to pull a spin-o-rama at the blue line and put a nice pass down to Vermette, who one timed it to Doan. Doan put the puck through Lehtonen’s five-hole for the 1-0 lead. OEL made a play not tons of defenseman can pull off in the league, a really beauty. The goal moved Doan into position as the leading scorer for the Coyotes this season with 8. The period went in the Coyote’s favor until the buzzer.
The second period was more even in terms of pressure. The Stars came out with their intensity and wanted to tie up the game. A couple of turnovers by the Coyotes led to some quality chances for the Stars, including a breakaway for Vern Fiddler. However, they did not capitalize on their chances. Then, at 7:31 in the period, the Coyotes got their cycle going and their third line combined to score the second goal of the game. Off of the cycle, the puck David Moss to Boyd Gordon. Gordon made a great pass across the crease to Rob Klinkhammer for his first career goal. It was Hammer time, ha. Klinkhammer got called up from the AHL and arrived at 3 a.m. today… surely a great day for him. After the goal, the period progressed as before until the Coyotes had two penalties called against them to put them on the 5-3 disadvantage. Jaromir Jagr took advantage of this and potted his 10th goal of the season to pull the Stars within one at 18:19 of the period. The period came to an end with the score at 2-1.
The third period started to see Dallas push even more to try to tie up the game. The Coyotes found themselves back on the 5-3 disadvantage again at about halfway through the period. However, they were able to hold off the Stars on the penalty kill with some great blocking and stick work. One could see that they were not attacking as much and sitting back a little more to protect their lead throughout the third period. With a little less than two minutes left in the period, Martin Hanzal threw a hard check on Jamie Benn. Benn left the ice after the hit and one has to wonder if it was just a little shake up or if he is seriously injured. Hope for the best for him. The period ended after another flurry by the Stars with the final score of 2-1.
The overall play of the Coyotes was much better than their previous performances. This looked more like the Phoenix Coyotes. There was a definite commitment to block shots, with 29 blocked shots during the game by the Yotes. Those are the little things that really help your goaltender and make your team win. The shots were also even at 21 for the game… indicative of the pressure both teams accomplished.
My three stars of the game are as follows: Third star is Mike Smith. He didn’t have to make any super hard saves but he put together a pretty solid game and made the saves that needed to be made. Second star is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He made the brilliant play for the first goal and put up 24 minutes of ice time to lead all players in the game. My first star is Rob Klinkhammer. In his first game with the Yotes he made his presence felt with good play and hits… oh not to mention he scored the game winner. He brought the Hammer tonight! (Sorry, gotta take advantage of the chance to do this).
Everyone have a great Saturday and weekend!