GLENDALE, Ariz. – This one was harder on Olli Jokinen’s relatives than the Phoenix Coyotes’ forward.
Playing against his former Florida teammates and several friends, Jokinen capitalized on the moment and had a goal and an assist to lead the Coyotes to a 4-1 win over the Panthers on Saturday night. Jokinen was traded from Florida to Phoenix for defencemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton during the off-season.
“I think it was more emotional for my family, but when you’re playing, you don’t think about it,” Jokinen said. “It’s nice to score but at the end of the day, you want your team to win.”
Mikkel Boedker added a pair of goals for Phoenix, marking the first multi-goal game of the rookie’s early NHL career.
Florida has lost six straight (0-5-1).
“We’re not playing hard enough,” Ballard said. “At times we play OK, but at times we make dumb plays and it’s not good.”
Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 26 shots to improve to 5-5 this season.
With the combination of Bryzgalov’s play and timely scoring, the Coyotes are learning how to win.
“We really started attacking the net in the second period, and that was the difference,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. “It turned things around for us and I just thought our team played really well.”
The Panthers took an early lead when Richard Zednik scored during a goal mouth scramble at 13:49 of the opening period. It was Zednik’s third point in 11 games.
The Coyotes failed to take advantage of seven power plays even though the Panthers are last in the NHL in killing penalties. Phoenix came in 19th in power-play efficiency, but couldn’t convert despite a two-man advantage that lasted 1:24 of the third period.
Down 1-0 midway through the second, Phoenix got even. Peter Mueller slid the puck under the pads of Tomas Vokoun at 10:41. It was Mueller’s first goal since Oct. 23 against Washington.
The Coyotes jumped ahead when Boedker scored with 2:17 left in the second. When Vokoun kicked Keith Yandle’s shot from the left point to the right side, Boedker was in perfect position to knock in his fourth goal.
Early in the third period, Ballard centred the puck in his end, but the pass was intercepted by Jokinen, who beat Vokoun under the crossbar at 5:39.
“We have a way of not handling adversity very well,” Panthers coach Peter DeBoor said. “That’s been a problem here in the first month of the season. As soon as we face adversity, we’re trying to do too much. That’s not the way a team handles adversity.”
Notes: Jokinen played in his 735th NHL game, passing Guy Charron the most appearances without playing in a post-season game. Charron played 12 years with Montreal, Tampa Bay, Washington and Calgary. … Panthers D Jay Bouwmeester leads the NHL with an average of 29 minutes, 16 seconds played per game. … Florida will conclude its western trip Sunday at Anaheim.