ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Phoenix Coyotes are starting to look like a surprise playoff team—again.
Lauri Korpikoski gave the Coyotes the lead for good with his second goal of the game, and Taylor Pyatt and David Schlemko also scored in Phoenix’s 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night.
“The fun thing about being on this team is that we count on every single guy,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “Korpikoski was incredible. You’ve got to give him credit for creating something out of nothing twice.”
Doan had two assists and added an empty-net goal with 42 seconds remaining. Ilya Bryzgalov made 36 saves against his former club to help the Coyotes earn a split of the six-game season series and move into a tie with Los Angeles for fourth place in the Western Conference.
“You’re going to drive yourself crazy if you look at those standings that hard every day,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We have the focus right now that every game is going to be the game that puts you in the playoffs, and we have to play every one just like it’s a playoff game.”
Corey Perry scored both Anaheim goals, and Dan Ellis stopped 17 of 21 shots through two periods before he was replaced by Ray Emery. The 10th-place Ducks are two points and two positions behind eight-place Calgary and the post-season cutoff in the West.
“At this time of the year, there is desperation in every play, every penalty kill and every power play,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “Everybody needs the points and it’s important that you give your best effort. Tonight was not one of our best efforts.”
Emery, who stopped all 10 shots he faced in his Anaheim debut, got into an NHL game for the first time since Feb. 1, 2010, when he was with Philadelphia. A month later, Emery underwent hip surgery.
He was signed by the Ducks last month after all-star Jonas Hiller went on the injured list because of vertigo. Emery has been serving as the backup to Ellis, obtained from Tampa Bay on Feb. 24.
“I’ve been waiting to get in the net,” Emery said. “I didn’t want it to be under these circumstances, but it got my feet wet. I tried to give the boys a chance to stick around in the game. It wasn’t perfect, but allowing no goals is good enough.”
Perry tied it 2-all at 15:46 of the second period with his 36th goal, redirecting a slap shot by rookie Cam Fowler on a power play created by a penalty for too many men on the ice.
“They have top players that give them a very dangerous power play and we put them on the ice too much, but we got away with it,” Tippett said.
Phoenix regained the lead 61 seconds later. Ducks forward Todd Marchant tried to sweep the puck out of his zone while backpedaling in the right circle and fanned. Korpikoski swooped around the flat-footed Marchant, swerved past defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky, and slid his 17th goal between Ellis’ pads.
“To get that one back real quick after they capitalized on the power play was a huge factor in the game,” Tippett said. “We were very focused and recognized what we had to do to give ourselves the best chance to win against a very good team.”
Marchant compounded his mistake 27 seconds later when he was sent off for high-sticking Korpikoski. Schlemko made it 4-2 three seconds after the penalty expired.
“It’s a tough one,” Marchant said. “We certainly know what is at stake. You have a game at home here against a team that you’re fighting with for the playoffs, and we came out flat again in the first period. That set the tone for the game. We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Doan broke his stick on a slap shot during a power play, and ended up with an interference penalty at 15:05 of the first. Just 28 seconds after leaving the penalty box, Doan set up Korpikoski’s first goal for a 2-1 Coyotes lead.
“He sure looks good right now,” Tippett said. “He’s our leading goal-scorer—and if you said that in training camp, you would have probably raised a few eyebrows. But he is just playing terrific.
“What he’s done is build himself into a very good NHL player. He’s combined a strong work ethic with a knowledge of the game.”
Notes: A moment of silence was observed for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. …Emery was the losing goalie in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals when the Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators. … The Coyotes are 86-48-18 in the regular season since Dave Tippett replaced Wayne Gretzky as coach. … Keith Yandle earned an assist on Korpikoski’s second goal, giving him 56 points—one more than Visnovsky and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom for the NHL lead among defencemen. … Phoenix is 12-1-1 when Pyatt scores a goal.