Coyotes 4, Stars 1
The Phoenix Coyotes’ playoff push is well under way.
Radim Vrbata scored his 25th goal, former Dallas backup Mike
Smith made 28 saves and the Coyotes improved their playoff
positioning with a 4-1 victory over the Stars on Tuesday night.
Vrbata gave Phoenix a 2-1 lead at 14:30 of the second period
when he tapped Rostislav Klesla’s centering pass by goalie Kari
Keith Yandle, Raffi Torres and Derek Morris also scored for the
Coyotes, who have won three straight and four of five – including
Monday night’s 3-1 home victory over Western Conference-leading
Phoenix, playing its third game in four nights, improved to 58
points, good for an eighth-place conference tie with Minnesota. The
Wild lost at Columbus 3-1 earlier Tuesday night.
”When you look at the standings, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11
teams want to go (to the playoffs),” said Vrbata, who added an
assist. ”So, we’ve battled.”
The Coyotes and Stars began the night tied for ninth in the
”This was a tight game and points we had to have against a team
we wanted to leapfrog in the standings,” said Coyotes coach Dave
Tippett, once coach of the Stars. ”Our guys came out and played
Michael Ryder scored for the Stars, who had been off since
Saturday night’s 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota.
Yandle got the Coyotes on the board first when his shot from the
point slid past a screened Lehtonen at 4:43 of the opening period
for his seventh goal of the season.
Yandle went to the locker room in the third after taking a puck
to the knee and did not return.
Ryder notched his 19th on a wrister from the right circle at
2:34 of the second to tie it at 1.
Lehtonen made the save of the night 18 seconds after Ryder’s
goal, denying Ray Whitney from close range with a sprawling glove
Dallas generated four shots during a 4-minute power play midway
through the second period while Phoenix’s Mikkel Boedker was
serving a double-minor for high-sticking, but Smith had little
trouble stopping all four.
”Our guys got enthused by that kill,” Tippett said. ”We used
that as a momentum-builder. I thought from there, we took the game
Lehtonen, who finished with 20 saves, was struck in the mask by
a shot from Phoenix’s Adrian Aucoin just more than 2 minutes into
the final period. Lehtonen was stunned for a few seconds, but
stayed in the game.
Torres scored his ninth of the season from the left circle at
5:41 of the third period. Morris’ first at 16:09 provided the
Coyotes with a three-goal pad.
The Stars have ridden Lehtonen’s strong goaltending to stay on
the fringe of the playoff race, but Tuesday night’s effort was one
of their worst of the season.
”Awful, atrocious. I don’t know,” Dallas defenseman Sheldon
Souray said. ”We’ve gotten by on a really good goaltender our last
three or four games and it’s just not good enough. We can talk
about it and try to figure it out and point fingers, but really as
a whole, we’ve really been letting ourselves down, especially as
important as this stretch of games is and what it means.”
NOTES: Dallas LW Brenden Morrow (upper-body injuries) missed his
ninth game this season and the team captain is expected to sit out
at least two more. … The Coyotes are without D David Schlemko
(foot). … Ryder scored his first goal at home since Jan. 3. …
Dallas won two of the first three meetings with Phoenix this
season, both in shootouts. … The Coyotes said Yandle is