GLENDALE, Ariz. — Paul Bissonnette had an early lead for story of the game when he netted his first home goal in nearly four years on Saturday. But Carolina goalie Justin Peters stole his thunder and a crucial two points from the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.
Peters stopped 37 shots and the Hurricanes capped their four-game trip with their first win (1-1-2), a 3-1 victory that was Phoenix’s first regulation home loss to an Eastern Conference team this season.
“We didn’t really play very well,” Bissonette said. “We’ve got to reassess. We’ve got a tough road trip coming.”
Phoenix opens a four-game eastern swing on Tuesday in Montreal, and for a time, Bissonnette looked like he might send them off in style in this proverbial getaway game.
With the Hurricanes about to break out of their zone, Phoenix center Jeff Halpern poked the puck free and back to defenseman Connor Murphy who sent a shot toward the net that Bissonnette redirected past Peters just six minutes and 14 seconds into the first period for a 1-0 lead.
It was Bissonnette’s first goal since Nov. 19, 2011 at Buffalo, and his first goal on home ice since Jan. 9, 2010 vs. the New York Islanders.
“That’s a long time,” Bissonette said. “It’s just good for confidence.”
Phoenix will have to find a way to restore its confidence on home ice. Saturday’s loss left it 1-3-1 at Jobing.com Arena in its last five, after it started the season 9-0-1 at home.
Carolina got a second-period goal from Nathan Gerbe and a third-period goal from Jeff Skinner off a faceoff win to grab a 2-1 lead. Peters was unbeatable from there on.
He stopped Antoine Vermette on a shorthanded breakaway, he stopped Mike Ribeiro on a backdoor one-timer and he held off every Phoenix push until Eric Staal’s empty-netter sealed it with 5.8 seconds remaining.
Peters has allowed two goals or fewer in his last six games.
“He’s a solid goalie. I played against him in the minors,” Coyotes forward Rob Klinkhammer said. “I think he held their team in there pretty well from some of the chances we had. He made some big saves so you have to give him credit.”
The loss added to the sense of urgency Phoenix faces on this four-game road trip. The defeat dropped them back into ninth place in the Western Conference and the team may have to play the road trip without forward Shane Doan, who spoke to reporters briefly, but still isn’t certain when he will return from a still-undiagnosed illness.
“It’s twofold,” coach Dave Tippett said, when addressing the impact of Doan’s absence. “The presence he has in the dressing room on non-ice stuff — he’s a big part of our group. The second part: he was our leading scorer when he went out. He’s a valuable two-way player for us. He’s arguably our best forward. That’s a hole that you have to try to fill.”
Phoenix is still 8-2-1 against the Eastern Conference so there is confidence heading into this trip. But the first two stops are in Montreal and Toronto, a pair of tough buildings in which to play, and the third game comes against Ottawa, one of two Eastern teams to beat the Coyotes on home ice this season.
“We have to find a way to get points whether we have injured players or not,” Tippett said. “We’ll need everybody to contribute if we expect to get points out of this trip.”