GLENDALE, Ariz. – Coming off consecutive embarrassing losses that included 11 straight goals against, the Phoenix Coyotes needed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to play better and to play better in front of him.
Check and check.
Phoenix squeezed its defensive end for the second straight game and Bryzgalov made the big saves for his second straight shutout, lifting the Coyotes to a 3-0 win over the struggling Colorado Avalanche Monday night.
“It’s been a little bit of both,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “Bryz has been solid and when he’s had to make big saves, he has, but we’ve been more committed in front of him, playing stronger defence.”
Bryzgalov was superb last season in leading the Coyotes to the playoffs, but had been sporadic this year, allowing four or more goals five times in a seven-game span.
Helped by a defence that had again cinched in around him, Bryzgalov had 25 saves in a 1-0 win over Minnesota on Saturday and backed that up with another sterling performance, turning away 26 shots to give Phoenix consecutive shutouts for the first time since Brian Boucher set the modern-day NHL record with five straight in 2003-04.
Bryzgalov, who had three straight playoff shutouts with Anaheim in 2006, became the first Coyotes goalie to post shutouts in consecutive starts since Curtis Joseph did it with a game off in between in 2006-07.
Radim Vrbata had two goals and Scottie Upshall chipped in the other, giving Bryzgalov plenty of cushion to notch his fifth shutout this season and 21st of his career.
“Right now, the way we are playing, a team has to earn it, make plays to score a goal, not give them a goal,” Bryzgalov said. “When you take care of your net like we took care of ours the last two games, you increase your chances to win games.”
Colorado is hoping the addition of former league MVP Peter Forsberg will help its chances after losing in consecutive shutouts.
The 37-year-old signed on for the rest of the season on Sunday, giving Colorado one of the best two-play players in the league during his heyday. He travelled with the team to the desert and went through the morning skate, but didn’t play due to immigration issues.
Forsberg could be cleared to play as early as Wednesday against Minnesota, but the Avs could have used him—or at least the previous incarnation of him—against the Coyotes after All-Stars Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene failed to take a single shot between them.
“I really don’t understand and I don’t think anyone knows what’s going on right now,” said Duchene, who has two points in 10 games. “We get chances and they’re just not going in for us right now. It’s very discouraging.”
Colorado got a couple of good chances early, including one that clanged off the post, but didn’t do much after that, managing six shots on goal in the first period and just a couple more until midway through the second.
After coming up empty on two power plays within a two-minute span of the second period, the Avalanche picked up the offensive pressure in the third and still couldn’t score. Colorado sent 12 shots at Bryzgalov in the third period without success and failed on three more power plays to lose its fourth straight.
“We’re not creating anything offensively,” Avs right wing Chris Stewart said. “You just have to keep it simple and we’re not scoring those ugly goals.”
Phoenix was coming off one of its best and perhaps biggest wins of the season.
Mired in a two-week funk sprinkled with occasionally—and uncharacteristically—uninspired effort, the Coyotes were superb at both ends in the 1-0 win over Minnesota that ended a five-game home losing streak.
The Coyotes picked up where they left off, hounding the Avs in their zone while creating plenty of good chances at the other end.
Ray Whitney set up the first goal with hard work, stripping a puck from behind in Colorado’s zone and feeding it to Martin Hanzal, who crossed it to Vrbata for a one-timer and his 12th goal.
Upshall made it 2-0 with just over 2 minutes left in the second, flipping in a shot past Craig Andersen after Kyle Turris’ shot hit a skate out front.
Vrbata closed it out on a power play midway through the third, punching in a rebound for his 13th goal of the season and a second straight decisive win for the Coyotes after what seemed like two debilitating losses.
“We talked the other night about taking steps forward, doing the things we think we have to do to be successful, and it was good to see we carried on a lot of those things tonight,” Tippett said.
Notes: Coyotes D Ed Jovanovski missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. … Colorado C Ryan O’Reilly returned on his 20th birthday after missing nearly a month with a shoulder injury. … Avalanche D John-Michael Liles played in his 500th career game.