‘Yotes Notes: Boston extends winning streak to 12 games with well-earned comeback victory over Phoenix
That perfect game didn't come, and neither did the conclusion of the reigning Eastern Conference champions' league-high 11-game win streak.
While Phoenix overcame an early goal with two unanswered tallies from Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, effort eventually trumped all when push came to shove.
Playing like the team who had a night off Friday rather than the one who had a road contest against Colorado, Boston was relentless over the final 20 minutes of play and ultimately reaped the benefits from its desperate play.
Jarome Iginla scored two goals in the third period -- one on a deflection during a 4-on-4 and one with the empty net -- and Shawn Thornton added the game-winner in between on a redirect of a Daniel Paille shot from the left circle, as the Bruins' extended their longest win streak since the 1970-71 campaign with a 4-2 victory in front of a sellout crow of 17, 468 at Jobing.com Arena.
"That was a disappointing one to let points slip away," Doan said. "Give them credit. They've obviously been finding ways to win games lately. They found away again tonight. We needed to be up by more than one or two after the first half of that game. We controlled the game, but we left them hanging around. And they found away to come back."
With the loss, Phoenix's lead over the Dallas Stars for the second and final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference was reduced to just two points.
Tremendous activity by some of Phoenix's dirt workers -- Lauri Korpikoski, Brandon McMillan and Jeff Halpern -- created momentum in the offensive zone after an early first period goal by Patrice Bergeron. That momentum led to a scoring chance - one Mike Ribeiro wouldn't let go for naught.
Ribeiro fed McMillan with a beautiful feed to the right of the left circle. His shot was denied by Boston goaltender Tukka Raska, but captain Shane Doan's follow attempt top shelf was not.
And speaking for dirt workers, Korpikoski's strong forecheck in the offensive zone kept Phoenix in possession of the puck with less than a minute to go in the first period. In the process, the Coyotes were able to draw a tripping penalty on Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski.
On the ensuing power play -- which extended into the second period -- Oliver Ekman-Larsson took a nice outlet pass from Mikkel Boedker and skated towards the offensive zone. While initially met with some resistance in the form of Loui Eriksson, Ekman-Larsson had no problem undressing him with a little puck play between the Bruins left winger's legs. From there, the 2014 Olympian placed a quick wrister on Rask. The puck bounced right off of Rask and back onto his stick for an uncontested second effort.
"I got the puck from Boeds," Ekman-Larsson said. "I just skated up and was looking for someone to pass it to. But I didn't see anybody, so I decided to do it by myself then."
While household names like Doan and Ekman-Larsson etched their names on the score sheet, a lot of the heavy lifting to set those chances up came from some terrific two-way hockey by Phoenix's lesser-known commodities.
It might have been his 32nd birthday Saturday, but Coyotes netminder Mike Smith was in the gift giving mood early on. Trying to be a little too aggressive on a clear, Smith's attempt to push the puck down the ice was intercepted before it even reached the blue line by Bruins defenseman Andrej Meszaros. Meszaros promptly put the puck on net, and although his shot didn't get past Smith, teammate Patrice Bergeron was right on the door step to force the puck home just three minutes and five seconds into the contest.
Even with Smith's gaffe, for a large portion of the contest the Coyotes deserved a better fate than the one they ultimately had to accept.
However, when it came down to it, the individual battles that went the home side's way over the first 30 to 35 minutes stopped transpiring down the stretch.
For instance, before Thornton's eventual game winner, the 36-year-old first screened out Yandle to the side of the net, allowing Gregory Campbell to scoop up the loose puck in the Bruins' zone. Campbell fought off Ribeiro along the boards before poking the puck out to Paille for his odd-angle attempt from the left circle.
"You usually get what you deserve," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. "We didn't win enough battles down low. Their defensemen had a lot of shots at the net that comes directly from losing battles low. It goes low to high and comes back at your net, that's part of their identity. That team, they try to beat you one-on-one, and we didn't do enough of those one-on-one battles at the right times and it came back to bite us."
Four penalties over the final 40 minutes, including a hook by Antoine Vermette that negated Phoenix's lone power play in the third period and led to Iginla's first of two tallies, also didn't help matters.
Stat of the Game:
Shane Doan's goal was also the first allowed by a Boston goaltender in the first period since March 2 - a span of 11 games.
He Said It:
"There's no time [for feeling sorry for ourselves]. We're going on a hard road trip here. We just talked about that. Get some rest tonight, and we'll get on that plane tomorrow. We're going in there to play with the desperation we need to in order to get wins. " - Tippett on team's mindset after suffering tough 4-2 result
- After taking down the Coyotes in comeback fashion, the Bruins need only three more wins to break their franchise record 14-game win streak set back during the 1929-30 season.
- Defenseman Derek Morris played in his 1,100th career game Saturday night. In his 15-year career, Morris has played for five teams: Avalanche, Bruins, Coyotes (twice), Flames, and Rangers.
- Shane Doan's first period goal allowed him into entry into the 20 goals-20 assists club alongside teammates Antoine Vermette and Radim Vrbata. During his illustrious career, Doan has reached the 20-goal plateau 12 times.
- Mike Ribeiro reached the 30-assist mark on the season with his secondary assist on Doan's goal. Ribeiro has recorded 30 or more assists in a season 10 different times in his career.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson's goal on the man advantage early in second period marked the 52nd time Phoenix has lit the lamp on the power play this team. The 52 tallies are the most in the Western Conference and the most by the franchise since 2007-08 (63).
- On Ekman-Larsson's goal, Keith Yandle recorded his 50th point of the season with the secondary assist. Yandle has reached the 50-point mark just twice in his seven-year career.
To say the Coyotes' are hanging on to dear life when it comes to the eighth spot out West would be an understatement. Following Saturday's defeat, Phoenix embarks on yet another road trip to the Eastern time zone.
"I have absolutely no idea who makes the schedule or how it is made," said Doan. "But it is makes absolutely zero sense. And not even that, but in the middle of the trip you're playing and then you go play in Pittsburgh and then you come back to New York after we've already played the Islanders and Philly. I mean we were just there last week. It doesn't make any sense."
First up on the Coyotes' latest nonsensical excursion is a date with Martin St. Louis and the New York Rangers Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Puck drops at 4 p.m. and the action can be heard on KMVP 860 AM.
Dave Dulberg, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com
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