Coyotes double up on Kings
Despite the controversy surrounding his team, Phoenix Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is only focused on what he can control on the ice.
Bryzgalov had 30 saves and Radim Vrbata scored two goals to lead the Coyotes to a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
It has been a tumultuous offseason for the Coyotes, who have endured bankruptcy and a recent coaching change. The franchise was put under bankruptcy protection in May and coach Wayne Gretzky quit nine days before the start of the season.
"I just talked to the other guys, I tell them, we can't do anything about it (so) we don't care," Bryzgalov said. "We just have to practice well and play well.
"We don't have to worry about what goes on outside the hockey rink because we can't do anything. We can't buy a team or sell a team."
Vrbata scored his first goal on a power play with an assist from Ed Jovanovski at 5:31 to put the Coyotes ahead 1-0 in the first period and his second off an assist from Petr Prucha to extend the Coyotes' lead 4-1.
"I think we played well as a team overall so I'm just glad I could help," Vrbata said. "If we (continue) to play like that, we can surprise a lot of people I think."
Robert Lang scored an unassisted goal at 8:25 in the final period capping the Coyotes' offensive burst to make it 6-2.
"I thought our guys competed very hard and we capitalized on chances," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Anze Kopitar and Alexander Frolov each scored for the Kings in the second period and Drew Doughty scored the team's final goal on a power play at 11:56 in the final period. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 24 saves.
With the team's future still undecided, the Coyotes were glad to start the season.
"We've been waiting for this day all summer," Coyotes right wing Scottie Upshall said. "We've had a crazy offseason worrying about where our team is going to be and all the stuff we can't control.
"We've been focused since the start of camp and we're here having fun playing hockey."
Earlier this week, a Phoenix bankruptcy judge rejected two offers to buy the team that hasn't turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996.
The saga surrounding the Coyotes intensified when Gretzky resigned as head coach on Sept. 24. In four seasons the Coyotes went 143-161-24 under Gretzky, who missed all of the team's preseason games.
The NHL's career leading scorer was replaced by former Dallas Stars coach and Kings assistant Tippett.
"In one week, he's taught us a lot about the style of play here in the Western Conference and what we need to do as a team to be the best," Upshall said. "He's good, intimidating, he gets the best out of guys."
Phoenix made it 2-0 when Matthew Lombardi was credited with a goal at 17:48 in the opening period. Kings defenseman Matt Greene inadvertently knocked the puck into his own goal when he tried to block a pass from Lombardi to Upshall.
Upshall later scored an unassisted goal 31 seconds into the final period extending the Coyotes' lead 5-2.
The Kings scored two goals in the second period.
After missing several shots from close range, the Kings scored their first goal on a power play when Kopitar scored at 10:37 with an assist from Ryan Smyth, trimming the Coyotes' lead to 3-1 in the second period.
Then Frolov scored on a 4-on-3 power-play goal at 19:17, making it 4-2.
The Kings played without defenseman Sean O'Donnell, who is serving a two-game suspension for a match penalty during a preseason game against the New York Islanders.
Kings coach Terry Murray was not happy with his team's play.
"That's probably the worst scenario that you have on opening night," Murray said. "We looked very out of sync, we were not passing the puck well, we were overhandling the puck and it was just sloppy play."