Coyotes win shootout thriller in Chicago
When the Coyotes left Chicago on Jan. 20 and headed into the All-Star break fresh off a 6-1 loss, they knew change was coming. The obvious conclusion was there would be changes to a roster that wasn't capable of a playoff push.
Those changes undoubtedly will come in the remaining three weeks before the NHL's trade deadline, but those changes were beyond coach Dave Tippett's control. They were beyond the players' control.
What Tippett tried to impress upon his team after that night were the changes it could control, most notably its effort on a nightly basis. That effort has been there since the break, but a two-game road trip against two of the league's heavyweights was a better measuring stick of Arizona's resolve.
"We should have it fresh in our mind what happened the last time in Chicago," Tippett said before the team embarked for games against the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. "That should be plenty of motivation for us."
There will be no prizes or playoff berths handed out after the Coyotes' 3-2 shootout victory on Monday in Chicago. There will be plenty of fans angry the team lowered its odds at a higher draft pick in a year when there are two potential franchise centers.
It should be clear now the Coyotes don't give a lick what outsiders think. It is the players' job to compete on a nightly basis; to "leave it all on the ice" as Tippett said Saturday.
Why it took half a season to reach that point is open for debate, but the Coyotes turned in perhaps their most entertaining game of the season in a win over the league's marquee franchise. The tanking talk should cease.
"For a good stretch overall we're doing things in better fashion," center Antoine Vermette told FOX Sports Arizona's Todd Walsh after scoring in regulation and scoring the deciding goal in the shootout. "Overall, our compete level seems to be a little more effective and it's translating to some points in the standings lately."
The Blackhawks broke out on top first when Marian Hossa redirected Jonathan Toews' doorstep pass past goalie Mike Smith midway through the second period after a nice hustle play by Chicago wing Brandon Saad to set up the opportunity.
Chicago had won nearly 77 percent of its games this season when scoring first, but the Coyotes tied it when Shane Doan redirected Keith Yandle's shot from the point to extend Yandle's point streak (nine assists) to seven games. Vermette gave Arizona a 2-1 lead before Hossa tied it at the 12:18 mark of the third period off another feed from Toews.
That set up a frantic overtime in which Andrew Shaw appeared to score the game-winner for Chicago with 16 seconds remaining. A review of the goal showed the back end of the puck just touching the goal line before it was obscured by Smith's glove and defenseman Zbynek Michalek swept it out of the net.
The on-ice official ruled it no goal, and without visual evidence, Toronto could not overturn it.
While the review was taking place, Tippett and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, close friends from their playing days together with the Hartford Whalers, had a running conversation with both cracking smiles.
"Just letting him know it wasn't a goal," Tippett quipped. "That’s probably as close as you can get without having a goal."
That the Coyotes were even position to win this game was a testament to the post All-Star game version of Smith, who made 36 saves in the building where he built his reputation in the 2012 playoffs.
Smith has posted save percentages above .920 in six of his seven starts since the break: Philadelphia (.929), Toronto (.960), Columbus (.968), Carolina (.976) Detroit (.920) and Chicago (.947).
"That was a heck of a hockey game," he told Walsh. "There were highs and lows throughout the whole game. Just happy to get the shootout win."
Smith made two saves in that shootout, while Lucas Lessio scored on the same move on which he hit the post against Carolina on Thursday. Vermette then slid a puck between goalie Antti Raanta's pads to push the Coyotes to 4-2-2 since the break.
"Entertainment at its finest right there," Tippett said.
COYOTES (20-27-7) at ST. LOUIS (34-15-4)
When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Where: Scottrade Center, St. Louis
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Season series: St. Louis leads, 2-0
Injuries: Arizona F Mikkel Boedker (splenectomy) is out indefinitely. F Martin Hanzal (upper body) and F Joe Vitale (upper body) are on injured reserve. St. Louis F Chris Porter (leg) and D Kevin Shattenkirk (abdominal surgery) are on injured reserve. F Jori Lehtera (upper body) is scheduled to return against the Coyotes.
Quick facts: Coyotes D Keith Yandle has a seven-game point streak (nine assists), which is the longest current streak in the NHL. … This game completes a little triangle between the Blues, Blackhawks and Coyotes. Chicago beat St. Louis on Sunday then lost to Arizona on Monday. … Shattenkirk suffered his abdominal injury when he collided with Washington's Alex Ovechkin on Feb. 1. He is week-to-week following his procedure. He is currently tied for third among NHL defensemen with 40 points. … Jake Allen will start in goal for St. Louis. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Sunday that Mike Smith would start both games of this back-to-back set.