Coyotes Resume Winning Ways at Home With Victory Over Islanders
By Casey Gagnon, Phoenix Sports Hub
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Shane Doan felt well enough to make a brief appearance at practice on Thursday morning. He probably felt even better after watching his Coyotes teammates play that same evening. In their return to home ice, the Coyotes snapped a three game losing skid at Jobing.com Arena with commanding 6-3 victory over the sputtering New York Islanders.
The Coyote captain missed his third consecutive came due to illness, but both Mikkel Boedker and Rob Klinkhammer stepped up and scored two goals apiece. Mike Ribeiro added a goal and two assists, giving him ten points in the last nine games. An Antoine Vermette assist on Boedker’s first goal gave Vermette nine points in the last ten games. Keith Yandle lit the lamp for the third time in the last five games. Connor Murphy picked up his first NHL career assist. As if all of these offensive accolades weren’t enough, the Coyotes were a perfect three for three on the penalty kill and held the Islanders to only 24 shots on goal.
The Coyotes improved their overall record to 18-8-5 and are 3-1-1 in their last five games. By snagging two points with tonight’s win, they recaptured a share of fourth place in the NHL Pacific Division with the Vancouver Canucks. The Coyotes have now earned 41 total points out of a possible 62 and trail the division-leading Anaheim Ducks by eight points. Meanwhile, the Islanders have dropped 10 of their last 11 contests and fell to 9-19-5 and remain in the Metropolitan Division cellar. Tonight’s win was especially bittersweet because only two months ago, the Islanders dealt the Coyotes their most lopsided loss of the season, a 6-1 drubbing in Nassau on October 8, only the third game of the Coyotes’ 2013-14 NHL campaign.
The first period concluded with the score tied 1-1, but the Coyotes erupted after the intermission with four goals in the second. After Murphy forced a turnover in the defensive zone, Klinkhammer struck first, blowing a wrist shot past Islanders goaltender Kevin Pulin after Ribeiro fed him the puck on a short pass.
Less than two minutes later, it was Boedker’s turn, sneaking the puck past Poulin as two Islander skaters came crashing into the net in a failed attempt to prevent another Coyotes goal. Not even an additional two minutes elapsed after the second goal before Ribeiro had his earlier favor returned, lighting the lamp on a Klinkhammer assist.
Altogether, the three goals came in a span of only 3:41 before the Islanders attempted a comeback, scoring two unanswered goals to close the deficit to 4-3. However, Boedker responded by blasting the puck over Poulin’s left shoulder to complete the Coyotes second period onslaught just over one minute before the period concluded. Klinkhammer then provided additional insurance with an unassisted second goal in the final period. It was the first time this season that two Coyotes skaters scored multiple goals in the same game.
The Coyotes get a well-deserved break from the ice Friday before one more home game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, and then they embark on another four game road trip before Christmas. The upcoming journey next week takes the Coyotes to Eastern Canada for three games versus the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, and Senators, followed by a final stop in Buffalo to face the Sabres. Given the fact that the Coyotes are now 8-1-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, the next five games afford them an ideal opportunity to gain ground in the very tight and extremely competitive Western Conference race.
Other Notable Info:
• Doan is still out indefinitely and it is unknown at this time whether or not he will make the upcoming eastern road trip. The Coyotes announced earlier today that they are awaiting test results from the doctor and that Doan’s illness might be more serious than originally thought.
• Defenseman Derek Morris has also missed the last three games tending to an urgent family matter, but he could rejoin the team for Saturday night’s home game versus Carolina. Forward Lauri Korpikoski skated with the team on Thursday morning but still hasn’t been reactivated from injured reserve. Korpikoski has now missed ten straight games with an upper body injury.
• In addition to earning his first NHL assist, Connor Murphy turned in another rock solid defensive performance. The 20 year old blueliner went +2 for the game an improved to +3 on the season in eight appearances for the Coyotes. He scored his first NHL goal in his debut on November 16 versus Tampa Bay
• Klinkhammer notched his second multi-goal game this season. He also scored two goals in the Coyotes 5-3 road victory over Carolina on October 15. It was the season’s first multi-goal game for Boedker.
•The Coyotes tied their season high by scoring six goals, a feat accomplished on two prior occasions, first versus the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 16 and then repeated in Edmonton last week against the Oilers.
•The four goals in the second tied period also tied the Coyotes season high for most goals in a single period. They also scored four goals in the third period versus the Detroit Red Wings on October 16, including Mike Smith’s empty netter as time expired, still the only goal scored by an NHL goaltender all season.
•Smith made 21 saves in Thursday’s game. He sat out the road game in Colorado on Tuesday after falling ill with flu-like symptoms earlier that day. After this morning’s skate, Smith announced that he felt “100% again” and was ready to resume minding the net.
•The Coyotes improved their winning percentage to .833 when leading after two periods. They are also 9-1-1 when they score four or more regulation goals.