Coyotes 2, Lightning 1
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
Officially, it will go down as an historic victory for the Coyotes. However, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett doesn't want to hear it.
Vernon Fiddler and Matthew Lombardi scored in a 2-minute span midway through the first period, Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 27 shots and Phoenix beat the Tampa Bay Lighting 2-1 Tuesday night for the Coyotes' franchise record-tying 43rd victory.
``For me it's a skewed record because of the shootout situation,'' Tippett said. ``It's great for the players. It's great any time you can set a record. They'll have that in their back pocket for the rest of their lives.''
Phoenix won its sixth straight and moved five points behind Western Conference-leading San Jose in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes began the night tied with Vancouver for third place overall in the conference, but the Northwest Division-leading Canucks still hold the third seed.
``We just take it one at a time,'' Tippett added. ``We've got to continue to improve our game.''
Bryzgalov faced back-to-back Lightning power plays in the third period but held strong and turned away several scoring opportunities in the final two periods.
Phoenix started out strong and their aggressive play paid off with goals from Fiddler and Lombardi.
Fiddler's goal was the result of a one-timer off a beautiful feed into the slot from Lee Stempniak. Lightning goalie Antero Nittymaki stopped the initial shot but lost control of the puck as it found its way into the back of the net.
``It's not easy to win games this time of year, and we're finding ways,'' Fiddler added.
Lombardi made the score 2-0 when he took a pass in the center from Wojtek Wolski and slipped a backhand shot past Nittymaki.
``I thought we came out and played a good road period and we were able to get a bit of a lead,'' Tippett said. ``Second period, I thought we went soft a little bit.
``It was kind of a workmanlike two points for us against a team that was desperate for points.''
Todd Fedoruk scored the lone goal for the Lightning thanks in part to a tremendous effort from Brandon Bochenski, who split three defenders on a dash to the net and fed Fedoruk at the last possible moment. Fedoruk's shot bounced off the post and into the net.
The Lightning had several more opportunities in the period with the closest coming on a power-play opportunity when Steven Stamkos shot from the slot hit Bryzgalov's shoulder pad and bounced off the cross bar.
In the third period the Lightning continued to charge the net but when turned away time and time again by Bryzgalov.
``It's been a struggle to score goals,'' Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. ``I can't question the team's courage. You've got to get players to go in front of the net.
``It's tough because these are must-win games.''
The loss further diminished the Lightning's playoffs hopes as they fell six points behind Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Nittymaki finished with 26 saves.
``It's very disappointing,'' Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. ``We work hard again and no results, no points.''
Phoenix, on the other hand, continued to roll toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the league's best defense and a goalie playing some of his best of the season - two things the usually spell success in the postseason.
``We don't have the star power that Tampa has,'' Lombardi said. ``But we've got a bunch of guys that play hard and believe in ourselves.''