Ducks Blanked by Coyotes, 4-0
Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 8:44 PM
Unable to play spoiler again, the Ducks were defeated on the road by Pacific Division foe Phoenix 4-0 on Saturday night.
Anaheim fired off 44 shots in the game, but none were able to beat Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.
Ray Whitney became the 79th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career points with a second-period power-play assist -- and added a goal 40 seconds later -- as the Coyotes overcame a listless start to beat Anaheim, moving them a step closer to making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third straight season.
Smith made 21 of his 44 saves in the first period, giving the Coyotes time to wake up, as he recorded his second straight shutout, stretching his scoreless streak to 159:59. The Coyotes, who entered the game with the NHL's worst power play at 13.2 percent, scored on all three of their attempts in the second period -- Andrew Vermette, Vrbata and Whitney all beat Anaheim backup goalie Jeff Deslauriers
. Oliver Ekman-Larsson also scored for Phoenix on a first-period breakaway.
With 91 points, the Coyotes are assured of staying in the top eight in the Western Conference playoff race. They pulled even in points with the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings – who own the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the season series – pending the result of the Dallas-San Jose game late Saturday.
At the age of 39, Whitney now had 75 points -- eight shy of his career high -- and has 39 points in his last 34 games. But none was bigger than just after a Corey Perry
instigated a fight with Phoenix forward Gilbert Brule at 15:56 of the second period, giving the Coyotes a 5-on-3 power play.
With the two man advantage almost over, Whitney slid a cross-crease pass to Vrbata, who was just off the left post and fired home his 33rd goal at 16:14. Whitney raised both hands skyward and as the crowd of 15,856 at Jobing.com Arena rose as one. His teammates cleared the ice to leave Whitney alone to receive the accolades.
Phoenix was still on the power play -- and before the hoopla had time to die down, the Coyotes corralled an Anaheim turnover and Vrbata returned the favor by setting up Whitney at 16:54 for a 4-0 lead.
"We started working on the next thousand [points]," Whitney joked during the second-intermission TV interview.
The rout didn’t start out that way. The Ducks conducted target practice on Smith in the first period, unleashing 10 shots in the first six minutes and 21 before the horn went off to end the period. But Smith, who made 38 saves as he shut out San Jose 3-0 on Thursday, put on a clinic and fought off Anaheim at every turn.
With Ekman-Larsson in the penalty box for hooking, the Ducks put two minutes of constant pressure on the Phoenix net -- Smith robbed Saku Koivu
and Teemu Selanne
, among others --and as the penalty ended, the Coyotes caught a break.
Just as Ekman-Larsson exited the box, the Coyotes collected the puck in their zone and Mikkel Boedker caught him on stride with a crisp pass beyond the red line. Ekman-Larsson breezed in alone, deked Deslauriers and slid the puck between his pads at 6:10. It was Ekman-Larsson’s 13th goal of the season – fifth among NHL defensemen – and his fifth in the last 10 games.
The Coyotes tightened up defensively in the second period, not allowing a shot in the first five minutes, and after killing off their third penalty of the night, cashed in on a power play after a tripping call against Koivu. Derek Morris waited for traffic to form in the slot and uncorked a shot from the point that Vermette deflected past Deslauriers for his 11th goal and third as a Coyote to make it 2-0 and begin a big period for the Coyotes.
Smith preserved his shutout early in the third period with two huge power-play saves, stopping Jason Blake
to the left before robbing Bobby Ryan
from point-blank range in the slot with a masterful glove save.