GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes have discovered a winning formula.
Take a lead, then let Ilya Bryzgalov take over.
It worked again Saturday night, as Radim Vrbata and Robert Lang scored in the second period and Bryzgalov made the goals stand up in a 2-1 victory over the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks, who have lost a season-worst five in a row.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett joked that he could send a tape recorder into his postgame news conference.
“I just said to the coaches in there, I’ve walked into the same press conference: ‘Bryzzie’ was good and we got a couple goals. Thanks,” Tippett said.
Bryzgalov stopped 37 shots for the Coyotes, who have won six of seven to climb into sixth place in the Western Conference.
“‘Bryzzie’ was excellent,” Tippett said. “In the third period, there was a couple of great chances, and he managed to close the door, and that’s how he’s played all year. He’s given us a chance when there’s a breakdown. He’s cleaned up a lot of messes for us.”
Bryzgalov kept the Sharks at bay until late in the third period.
With Phoenix leading 2-0 late in the third period, the Coyotes’ James Vandermeer was called for interference, giving San Jose a 4-on-3 advantage. Moments later, a wide-open Dany Heatley beat Bryzgalov from the left circle at 14:39.
The Sharks poured on more pressure in the final minutes but couldn’t beat Bryzgalov again.
The Coyotes have swept two games from the Sharks, but Bryzgalov downplayed the significance of beating a team Phoenix might face in the playoffs.
“I think it doesn’t matter in the NHL which team you’re playing tonight,” Bryzgalov said. “If you’re not playing 110 per cent and you’re not prepared, you can’t beat any bottom teams.”
The game drew another sparse crowd – announced at 10,650 – to Jobing.com Arena one night after the Coyotes’ fuzzy ownership picture seemed to come into focus. The NHL announced that the Ice Edge Holdings investment group had signed a letter of intent to buy the financially floundering team from the league with a long-term commitment to keep the team in Arizona.
Those who did show up saw another tight game between the Pacific Division rivals.
Neither club could score in regulation or overtime in their first meeting, a 1-0 Coyotes shootout victory on Oct. 12 in San Jose.
Noting that the Sharks had played an overtime game in San Jose on Friday night, Tippett wanted the Coyotes to jump on the visitors early.
“I thought if we could get a lead in this game, it would certainly help our situation, just because when you’re chasing the lead you’re using more energy,” he said.
The Sharks didn’t help themselves by taking seven penalties in the first two periods, and eight overall.
“We ran into penalty problems early in the game,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan, who praised his players for fighting back in the third period. “They put us on our heels a lot.”
After a scoreless first period Saturday night, the two sides had gone 85 minutes this season without producing a goal between them. The drought stretched to 88:40 before Phoenix’s inconsistent power play came through against San Jose’s third-ranked penalty kill unit.
After San Jose’s Rob Blake was sent off for slashing early in the second period, Vrbata redirected Keith Yandle’s shot from the point past Greiss to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead. It was Vrbata’s ninth goal, tying Scottie Upshall for the team lead
Less than 2 minutes later, Taylor Pyatt carried the puck over the end line and fed Robert Lang in front of the net, and Lang fired the puck past Greiss for his seventh goal.
With Bryzgalov in net, the two goals turned out to be enough for Phoenix.
Bryzgalov robbed Heatley from between the circles with two seconds left in the first, then denied Heatley again on a wrist shot early in the second period.
Six minutes into the third period, Bryzgalov coughed up a rebound, then gloved a point-blank shot on the rebound by San Jose centre Joe Pavelski.
“We’re having a tough time scoring goals,” Heatley said.
NOTES: San Jose D Dan Boyle was injured late in the game, but McClellan provided no details. … The Coyotes are 12-5 at home and have won six straight in Jobing.com Arena. They hit the road for their next four games, with a trip to Detroit, Toronto, Columbus and Anaheim. … Phoenix C Shane Doan hasn’t scored a goal in five games, matching his longest drought of the season.