DiPenta scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, and the Anaheim Ducks beat Phoenix 2-1 Wednesday night for their 10th straight home victory over the Coyotes. It was his first game-winner and his first in 14 career games against Phoenix.
“They were giving me a good razzing as I came in and joking with me because of the type of goal I scored,” DiPenta said with a grin. “Some guys were asking if I’ve practised my pool shots a lot.”
DiPenta, who has five goals in 136 NHL games, snapped off a wrist shot from the top of the right circle and the puck caromed off Phoenix defenceman Fredrik Sjostrom into the slot.
Coyotes goalie Mikael Tellqvist was out of position because of the deflection, and the puck bounced again off Phoenix centre Steven Reinprecht before trickling into the open net with 8:20 remaining.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” Reinprecht said. “Fred made a good block. But it just came to me standing in the slot, and it ricocheted off my shin pad. It’s an unfortunate bounce, but that’s hockey. It was a one-in-a-million shot.”
No one was more appreciative of DiPenta’s timely goal than Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, whose 24 saves helped the Pacific Division-leading Ducks record their 20th one-goal victory and 13th in regulation.
“We’re happy for Joe because he works hard,” said Giguere, who gave up a goal by Shane Doan 31 seconds after the opening faceoff. “Joe’s always the first guy here and the last guy out. It’s nice sometimes when a guy like him is rewarded with a big goal like that. Even if it’s not the prettiest, I’m sure he’s pretty happy.”
Defenceman Ric Jackman scored a power-play goal for the Ducks, who have 40 victories and lead the Pacific with 91 points. They are three wins and seven points from equalling the franchise record set in both categories last season.
The Coyotes are 2-16-0 with a tie in the last 18 matchups between the teams and have lost six of the first seven meetings this season.
“Great teams make their own breaks,” Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “They probably would be the first ones to tell you it wasn’t the best game they’ve played all year. Our team was ready to go and we battled all night against a very good hockey club. I’m disappointed for these guys because they played hard.”
From a positive standpoint, the Coyotes kept Anaheim’s top line of Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz off the scoresheet. Each of them has four goals against Phoenix this season.
“Just because we’re out of the playoffs, that doesn’t mean we don’t have pride,” Reinprecht said. “We want to make sure we come to the rink every day with a 100 per cent work ethic. They’ve got a lot of firepower up front, but we played them tight and hard. That’s why it’s unfortunate to lose on a situation like that.”
Anaheim played without Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Chris Pronger, who broke the big toe on his left foot during a workout following Sunday’s victory against Nashville and is expected to be sidelined at least two weeks.
“I wanted to get a little strength work in, knowing Monday was going to be an off day,” he said. “It was a freak incident. I did not drop anything on my foot. I had it up on a bench, and it slipped off and I kicked the floor. I’ve been around a lot of teams over the last 14 years, and I’ve seen a couple of instances where this has happened – but nothing ever this bad.”
Pronger, in his first season with Anaheim following an offseason trade with Edmonton, missed nine games in January because of a broken left foot. He has 11 goals and 42 assists, and is fourth in the NHL in ice time, averaging 27.13 minutes.
“We definitely feel some pressure because Chris is a big-time player and it’s impossible to fill his shoes completely,” DiPenta said. “But each one of us has to pick up our game a little bit and try to fill in until he gets back. There’s definitely some guys getting a little more ice time out there because of Chris’ absence. He plays big minutes for us, and somebody’s got to play those minutes now that he’s not there. It’s part of being a hockey team.”
Notes: RW Owen Nolan, the Coyotes’ second-leading scorer, missed his second straight game because of a shoulder injury that has plagued him the last few weeks. … LW Brad May, acquired by Anaheim on Feb. 27, was back in the lineup after missing two games with an undisclosed lower body injury. Teammate Todd Marchant missed his eighth straight game with an abdominal strain.