NHL: Coyotes Edge Out Panthers
The Phoenix Coyotes are on a three-game winning-streak after beating the Florida Panthers 2-1 at Jobing.com Arena Thursday. The Coyotes are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and currently hold the last playoff wildcard in the Western Conference.
The game will not go down in history, but the two points is what matters at this point of the season with the Coyotes battling several other teams for that last wildcard spot. The Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild both lost on Thursday, something that the Coyotes fans surely are happy about.
Coyotes took command of the game early in the first period as Radim Vrbata scored on the power play at 2:56. Vrbata got his 20th goal of the season after Oilver Ekman-Larsson’s shot from the blue line bounced off Martin Hanzal and landed on Vrbata’s blade.
“We’ll take the two points when we can get them,” Vrbata said after the game. He added that desperation might be a factor of why the team has been able to win seven out of the last nine games.
The Panthers were without Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Barkov, but still managed to push back and Nick Bjugstad had a shot off the post on the power play when Chris Summers was in the box for tripping.
Late in the period, the Coyotes made it 2-0 with a goal by Antoine Vermette at 18:38, his 23rd of the season, who got an open net when Mikel Boedker and a Panthers defenseman crashed into the goal crease. Roberto Luongo in the Panthers net was furious as he felt like he was interfered by Boedker, but the referees called it a good goal.
The beginning of the 2nd was all about the Panthers, as the Coyotes came out really flat and had difficulties getting the puck out of the defensive zone. Mike Smith came up big when needed and made sure that the Panthers stayed scoreless. It took roughly seven minutes for the Coyotes to get a shot on goal in the period. Phoenix picked it up in the second half of the period and Mike Ribeiro had a golden opportunity to put the Coyotes up 3-0, but Luongo showed that he’s still an elite goalie and shut Ribeiro down.
The third period was a real snoozer until Scott Gomez scored with 4:17 remaining to make it 2-1. The Panthers pushed on to get the tying goal, but Phoenix managed to hold on and Mike Smith came up big and ended the night with 22 saves.
The Boston Bruins will visit Jobing.com Arena on Saturday. Game starts at 6 p.m.