LOS ANGELES – Olli Jokinen hadn’t scored a goal in exactly a month. The Phoenix Coyotes hadn’t won back-to-back games in more than a month. Both those trends ended in an impressive road victory that gave renewed life to their playoff hopes.
Jokinen scored twice in the second period against his former team to reach 500 career points, then added an empty-netter to complete his sixth career hat trick as the Coyotes beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 on Saturday.
“I’m playing with good players and I got a lot of chances,” Jokinen said after ending an 11-game drought. “It’s nice to score, but the bottom line is to get two points and stay in this playoff race. It was a good solid road game and we got two big points out of it.”
The victory was just the third in 12 games for the Coyotes, who began the day only five points away from the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference despite being tied with Colorado for last place.
“It was a big win for us,” coach Wayne Gretzky said. “We came in here against a team that’s playing pretty well right now. They’re one of the hotter teams in the NHL, so we knew it was going to be a tough game.
“I thought it was maybe the best we’ve played all season long, as far as getting traffic to the net. Our guys played really hard and we did a lot of good things. We got off to a good start and then got behind, but we kept coming back at them.”
Viktor Tikhonov had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who have won nine of the last 12 meetings with their Pacific Division rivals and five of their last six games at Staples Center. Defenceman David Hale and rookie Mikkel Boedker also scored and Martin Hanzal had two assists, helping Phoenix get back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 15-17.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves to improve to 7-1-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average in his last eight games against the Kings. He’s 4-0 at Staples Center during that stretch.
Alexander Frolov, Dustin Brown and Derek Armstrong scored for the Kings, who have lost four straight at home and are 1-3-2 in their last six games overall after a 7-1-0 stretch. Jonathan Quick made 23 saves after going 8-2-1 with a 2.67 GAA in his previous 11 games.
Brown gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead at 1:20 of the second period, carrying the puck around defenceman Ed Jovanovski and beating Bryzgalov to the stick side with a wrist shot from the right circle for his 23rd goal. But the Coyotes responded with three goals in a 6:02 span.
Jokinen, who made his NHL debut in 1997-98 with the Kings after they made him the third overall pick in the draft, tied it at 12:34 of the period with a screened wrist shot from the top of the left circle.
“Against any goalie in this league, if you don’t screen them, it’s tough to score,” Jokinen said. “We had pretty good traffic in front of the net today, and we have to keep doing that. After they scored their second goal we started getting the puck deep in their zone and cycled it pretty good.”
Each of Coyotes’ next two goals came off sloppy turnovers by Anze Kopitar to the left of the Kings’ net, including Tikhonov’s seventh of the season and Jokinen’s second of the game – a one-timer that beat Quick high to the glove side at 18:36 of the second.
“I think they just out-waited us,” Kings defenceman Kyle Quincey said. “They had more patience than we did and they capitalized on our mistakes. They have good, young, skilled forwards and they showed it today. Around our net, they were more hungry than we were.”
Boedker, the eighth overall pick in last summer’s draft, added his 10th goal with 1:31 to play. Jokinen completed the Phoenix scoring with a short-handed goal after the Kings pulled Quick for an extra attacker. It was his 20th goal this season and 228th of his career.
After allowing an average of 32 shots on net over their previous three games, the Coyotes held the Kings without one until the 8 1/2-minute mark, when Jack Johnson’s wrist shot from above the left circle was handled by Bryzgalov.
Phoenix opened the scoring 53 seconds later, when Hale’s one-timer from the left point beat Quick over the right shoulder while he was screened.
It was the third career goal for Hale, who didn’t score his first one until his 231st NHL game on Nov. 26 against Columbus – ending the longest drought from the start of a career since 1979-80. His other one came on Jan. 17 against Calgary.
Los Angeles tied it at 12:13 of the first with Frolov’s 25th goal, two more than he had in 71 games last season.
Notes: Kurt Sauer is still not playing at 100 per cent after missing 14 games because of an injured foot. This was his third game back in the lineup. … Kings D Denis Gauthier began serving a two-game suspension without pay, following a boarding penalty in Thursday’s 4-2 loss when he made contact with Patrick Marleau on an icing play. Gauthier, who received a five-game suspension earlier this month for hitting Montreal D Josh Gorges with an elbow to the head, will forfeit US$22,580 in salary as a result of this one. … Phoenix LW Daniel Carcillo, whose 172 penalty minutes lead the league, went an entire game without getting a penalty for the 24th time this season. The Coyotes are 13-11 in those games. His only penalty in four meetings with the Kings was a major he got for fighting John Zeiler. … The Frolov-Kopitar-O’Sullivan line has combined for seven goals and 11 assists over the last five games. … Phoenix was 0-for-2 on the power play. The last time the Coyotes faced the Kings on Dec. 27, they were a season-worst 0-for-9 – beginning an eight-game stretch in with they were 1-for-33 with the man advantage. … The Coyotes began a nine-game stretch in which they will play only once at home, where they have lost six of seven.