Recent call-ups play a big role in Coyotes' win
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Marc-Antoine Pouliot missed the phone call from Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treviling on Friday morning. He was still asleep in Portland, Maine.
"My alarm went off like five minutes later, so I called him back and I was like, 'What's up?'" Pouliot said.
You are, Treviling told him. We're recalling you.
Pouliot had no idea that center Martin Hanzal had been injured. He had no idea he'd be in the lineup for perhaps the biggest game of the Coyotes' season.
"I didn't know anything," he said.
Yet there he was Saturday night, assisting on the first two goals as the Coyotes broke an 0-for-March skid with a 3-0 victory over the sinking San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena.
"It feels great, but I have to go out and do it again the next game or people will forget about me quickly," Pouliot said.
Maybe, but not that quickly. Pouliot and fellow Portland call-up Michael Stone played key roles in a pivotal stretch of Saturday's game that turned the tide in the Coyotes' favor. The Coyotes were outshot 16-9 in the opening period and had just two shots through the first 11 minutes of the second period.
Only the brilliance of goalie Mike Smith kept the Sharks at bay. Smith made 23 saves over that stretch (42 in the game), showing the clear benefits Thursday's off day and a few extra practice days with goalie coach Sean Burke.
"He came out and played a superb game for us tonight," coach Dave Tippett said.
The Coyotes finally made a push late in the second period on a terrific shift from Pouliot, Gilbert Brulé and Mikkel Boedker. The trio had San Jose pinned on its own for a good 45 seconds before Boedker knocked home a rebound off Stone's point shot to put the Coyotes on top, 1-0.
With just under two minutes to play in the period, Pouliot then spoon-fed Stone a backhand pass at the top of the circle and Stone hammered home his first NHL goal off the post for a 2-0 lead.
"It was an awesome pass from Pouliot, and I gave it a good ride," Stone said. "I was really happy to see that go in."
So were the Coyotes. In the blink of an eye, all those early deficits and early-March failures seemed about 3,000 miles away.
"It speaks volumes for our coaches and organization down in Portland," Tippett said. "Those guys can jump in and it's a seamless transition."
The Coyotes needed this win in the worst way. They had slipped all the way to seventh in the conference and were just a hair away from a non-playoff spot. The Western Conference standings didn't change on Saturday night, but the outlook sure did.
Phoenix opened a three-point lead over the ninth-place Sharks with Smith's second shutout against them this season. Just as important, defenseman Rostislav Klesla was back in the lineup to eat up important minutes, while Tippett also revealed that David Schlemko and Derek Morris are close to returning.
"We've got a lot of options now," he said.
They'll need them over what promises to be a dramatic stretch run. But for one night, the Coyotes played textbook playoff hockey with strong goaltending, secondary scoring a flawless penalty killing unit and tight-checking.
"That's a gutsy win for our team," Smith said. "We showed we can be a good hockey team."