GLENDALE, Ariz. – Mike Smith never saw his first NHL goal go in. He and his Phoenix Coyotes teammates had to wait for a bit after the final buzzer sounded to see if the goal counted.
It did—an empty-netter from his own crease as the game clock expired that floated down the ice and into the net at the horn—capping the Coyotes’ 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
Smith accepted congratulations from the Coyotes, unaware he had become the 11th goaltender in NHL history to score.
Two goalies have scored more than once, Martin Brodeur (three) and Ron Hextall (two) according to NHL.com. The last goalie to score in the regular season or playoffs was Brodeur for the New Jersey Devils on March 21 at Carolina.
“I don’t know what to say, really,” Smith said. “Obviously I’m thrilled with the way we played. It’s just a bonus to be able to score a goal in this league as a goaltender. We did a lot of really good things tonight against a good hockey team.”
Smith had given the Coyotes and their fans a scare when he dropped face-down onto the ice 10:08 into the second period after reaching to block a shot. Smith was down for a couple of minutes, being attended to by a trainer, but remained in the game.
Detroit scored immediately after Smith went down, but the goal was waved off.
Smith said he felt a sharp pain that shot up into his neck. As he lay on the ice, the pain subsided and he was able to continue.
“It’s nothing concerning,” he said.
Smith said he tries a long shot from his own goal toward the other net in practice every so often and had scored for Lexington in the ECHL during the 2002-03 season.
“A lot of things have to go right for it to happen,” he said. “The clock has to slow down at the right time of the game to let it trickle in over the line.”
It was a bonus goal, as Mike Ribeiro scored twice in the third period to help the Coyotes storm back from a 2-0 deficit in the opening frame. Martin Hanzal’s goal at 7:08 of the third, in his 400th NHL game, put Phoenix ahead 3-2. That came 2:01 after Ribeiro had tied it.
“The most important thing was the team and the way we came back,” Ribeiro said.
“He finds a way to have an impact on the game,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s a quirky player, but he can do things for you.”
Ribeiro’s third of the season with 6:46 remaining gave Phoenix a 4-2 lead before Smith sealed the win in dramatic fashion.
Antoine Vermette started the comeback in the second after Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi gave the Red Wings the lead in the first.
Detroit had a four-game winning streak snapped.
The Coyotes finished a two-game season sweep of their former Western Conference rivals. Phoenix beat the Red Wings 4-2 in Detroit on Oct. 10.
“They worked harder than we did, we turned over too many pucks,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We weren’t good enough, we didn’t play hard enough and we didn’t have enough people going.”
Howard stopped 16 shots in the first period, the most shots the Coyotes have had in an opening period this season. The Coyotes had a chance to cut the Red Wings’ lead to one early in the second after Shane Doan was taken down on a clear scoring chance by defenceman Brendan Smith, but Howard extended his left leg and blocked Doan’s attempted right-handed shot in front.
Howard made 28 saves in his return to the ice after missing three games because of a bruised left hand.
“We had the lead 2-1, and we have to find a way to grind out wins like that on the road,” Howard said.
Datsyuk and Bertuzzi scored less than five minutes apart for the Red Wings, Datsyuk with the deflection of a pass from Henrik Zetterberg from the left wing, and Bertuzzi with an unassisted tally.
Phoenix got on the board with a minute left in the second period. Vermette helped clear the puck off the boards in the Coyotes zone to teammate Rob Klinkhammer. Vermette took off down the ice, got a return pass from Klinkhammer and lifted a slap shot over defenceman Danny DeKeyser’s stick and over Howard’s left shoulder.
The Coyotes drew even on Ribeiro’s goal, which came after a faceoff and pass from Mikkel Boedker that was deflected in front to Ribeiro.
Ribeiro has a point in six straight games. Boedker tallied a pair of assists.
NOTES: Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall didn’t play after sustaining a concussion from a hard hit Thursday at Denver. Kronwall’s streak of 138 straight games came to an end. He said Saturday that he was feeling no symptoms, and he was listed as day-to-day. … Brendan Smith played for the first time in five games. … Vermette has four points in three games, including a goal in each.