GLENDALE, Ariz. – Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky wanted a change. He turned to backup Mikael Tellqvist and the six-year veteran goalie delivered.
Tellqvist made 31 saves in his first start of the season and the Coyotes rallied to beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 Thursday night.
“On the flight home from Montreal Saturday, I decided we needed a spark,” said Gretzky, whose club snapped a three-game losing streak. “We needed some new energy.”
Tellqvist held the Capitals scoreless in the first and third periods and allowed only Brooks Laich’s power-play goal in between.
“I had the chance to feel the puck early, which was key,” Tellqvist said. “The job of the backup is to come in and win games, not worry about the past.”
Mikkel Boedker and Peter Mueller scored four minutes apart early in the third period for the Coyotes, who are 2-0 at home for the first time since 2000.
“It’s a quirky stat but here’s the flip side. Our record at home is the reason we didn’t make the playoffs last year,” Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. “It’s a quirky stat, but it’s something we have to do.”
Phoenix tied it 1-1 with 17:31 to go when Olli Jokinen stole the puck from defenceman Tyler Sloan just past the Capitals blue line and fed a pass to Boedker for the wrist shot under Jose Theodore.
Mueller made it 2-1 with 13:28 remaining when he took a cross-ice pass from Martin Hanzal and fired into the open right side of the net.
“This was a great win for the boys,” Mueller said. “This definitely will lift our spirits.”
Washington has carried a lead into the third period in two of its last three games and has lost both.
“We’re just not working,” right wing Matt Bradley said. “We have the skill. We have the good systems in place. We’re just not working. You don’t work, you don’t win. We have only ourselves to blank.”
Laich put Washington ahead 1-0 at 8:18 of the second when he capped a 4-on-2 break with a wrist shot from the inside hashes of the right circle.
The Coyotes had two golden scoring opportunities in the first period. First, Doan missed into Theodore’s pads on a breakaway with five minutes left in the period. One minute later, Kevin Porter fired a shot off the right post at the end of a 4-on-2 rush.
Theodore finished with 32 saves for the Capitals, who had not lost in Phoenix since Oct. 31, 2001. The road team had won each of the past five meetings.
“We talk about not playing prevent defence and that’s what we did,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We made two bad plays and it turned into two goals.”
Notes: Alexander Semin added an assist on Laich’s goal and has 11 points in seven games. … Washington’s power-play goal snapped the Capitals’ 1-for-18 skid with the man advantage. … Coyotes RW Viktor Tikhonov left the game after a centre-ice collision with Washington D Mike Green midway through the first period. He sustained a shoulder stinger and didn’t return. … The Capitals played in Phoenix for the first time since Jan. 16, 2006, when Alex Ovechkin scored “The Goal” – a one-handed, over-the-shoulder shot while sliding faceup and backward toward the net – to spark a 6-1 win.