GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) — Rookie Kyle Turris made Rick
Tocchet’s return to the desert an unpleasant one.
Turris snapped a tie at 8:09 of the third period Thursday,
helping the Phoenix Coyotes end their struggles against the
lowly Tampa Bay Lightning with a 3-2 victory.
Olli Jokinen and Peter Mueller also scored and Steven Reinprecht
and All-Star Shane Doan each recorded two assists for the
Coyotes, who had dropped six straight meetings with the
Lightning – three of which came at home. Phoenix’s last victory
against Tampa Bay at Jobing.com Arena came on December 14, 2000.
“We haven’t played our greatest hockey the last couple of games,
and when you get into a rut, it doesn’t change overnight,”
Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said. “It takes time. I thought
our guys worked pretty hard, did a lot of little things well.
They played extremely unselfish as a group and did what they had
to to win.”
The Coyotes entered the game with a 126-minute, 26-second
goalless drought, which included a 6-0 home loss to the Chicago
Blackhawks on Tuesday.
“After being embarrassed like that, no one wanted to come out
and play a bad game,” Mueller said. “We all knew what was at
stake. It gives a lot of the guys some confidence and getting
some points back in there and score some goals, but the more
important thing was getting the two points.”
Jeff Halpern registered a power-play goal and an assist and
defenseman Andrej Meszaros also scored for the Lightning, who
failed to post back-to-back victories for the third time this
“I am really disappointed in the team right now,” Tocchet said.
“That was unacceptable. We had three days, and we never showed
up. The culture is going to change. That is terrible. That is
the most disappointed I have been as a coach of the Tampa Bay
Lightning and after giving the guys three days off.”
Named Tampa Bay’s interim coach on November 16, Tocchet served
as an associate for Gretzky after playing alongside Doan on the
Coyotes from 2000-07.
However, Tocchet was accused of financing a nationwide sports
gambling ring based in New Jersey in which several current NHL
players participated and left the league for two years to deal
with the charges. Once his troubles were settled, he was hired
as an assistant to Barry Melrose, who was fired by Tampa Bay on
Under Tocchet, the Lightning are 6-17-6 overall and 5-5-2 in
their last 12 contests.
“We stopped skating, and some guys looked like they were in
quicksand,” Tocchet said. “It seems like we accept it as ‘nice
try,’ but you can’t win like that. If guys can’t be men, you
have to treat them like kids. So we are really going to have to
tie the knot more. Maybe I am the idiot for giving them too
Turris ultimately ruined Tocchet’s return by tipping the puck
past goaltender Mike Smith while stationed in front of the net,
giving Phoenix a 3-2 lead.
“This was a big game for us,” Turris said. “We were pretty
choked about the last one, and to come back and win the way we
did was great for us.”
The 19-year-old Turris also was pleased with his team’s approach
in the offensive zone.
“We wanted to get lots of shots on net because we hadn’t scored
in the last two games,” Turris said. “We did that, and we knew
that the next several games would be big games, so we made the
best of it.”
Mueller scored a power-play goal 46 seconds into the middle
period by collecting a rebound, but Halpern evened the game at
2-2 by firing a wrist shot from the low slot by netminder Ilya
Bryzgalov with 5:17 to go in the session.
“You have to (get rebounds),” Mueller said. “That is how you
score points. We have to score points somehow, and that’s
pretty much where you find them, and that’s where we got them.”
Meszaros opened the scoring at 8:36 of the first, when his shot
bounced off the crossbar and Bryzgalov’s back before entering
Jokinen pulled the Coyotes even at 1-1 with 7:43 remaining in
the session with his 14th goal.
Bryzgalov made 22 saves, while Smith turned aside 24 shots.
“There were parts of the game where we played well, but the
things we’ve been talking about for the last two months, the
little things in the game, change momentum,” Smith said. “It’s
throwing pucks in the middle. It’s turning pucks over at the
blue line, and certain guys did that tonight and that hurt the
rest of us.”