Radim Vrbata of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates his third period goal against the Detroit Red Wings during Game 3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
All season long, the Phoenix Coyotes needed neither stable ownership nor sellout crowds to be successful on NHL ice rinks. And after Game 3 of their Western Conference series against the Detroit Red Wings, you can add Shane Doan to the list of components not necessary for a Yotes victory.
Doan, very effective for Phoenix in Game 1 of the series, left Game 3 (with what appeared to be a shoulder injury) after falling over Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and crashing into the end boards in the second period.
But despite the loss of their captain, the Coyotes weathered numerous Wings pushes throughout Sunday afternoon’s game and out-lasted Detroit by a score of 4-2 to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home ice advantage.
Despite the sound thrashing the Red Wings gave them Friday – a Game 2, 7-4 loss that evened the series – Sami Lepisto’s second career NHL goal gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead just 29 seconds into Game 3.
The Wings struck back on the game’s first power play, tying the score at the 14:42 mark on Valtteri Filppula’s third goal in as many games. And although Detroit outshot the Yotes 13-7 in the opening frame, the score stayed knotted heading into the first intermission.
In the second period, the Coyotes needed Ilya Bryzgalov’s goaltending brilliance to protect them from the type of furious offensive assaults that served the Wings so well in Game 2.
However, much like Game 1, the longer the game went on, the more confident Phoenix became. And when Wojtek Wolski beat Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard with a backhand at 19:28 of the second to put Phoenix back in the lead after 40 minutes, the tide was well in the process of turning.
It turned for good when Phoenix winger Petr Prucha provided his team with a two-goal lead 8:16 into the third. The Red Wings scored 1:43 seconds after Prucha’s goal to make the score 3-2, but the Coyotes responded 1:39 after that on Radim Vrbata’s first goal of the series and leaned on Bryzgalov the rest of the way for the win.
Bryzgalov arguably was Phoenix’s best player on Sunday, but as the half-game absence of Doan demonstrated, nobody on this team pays for the bill all by himself.
The Coyotes have been there for each other when nobody cared for their chances or believed in their resolve.
They’ve stuck together when people expected them to crumble and fall from the playoff race and when many thought they’d wither under Detroit’s powerful post-season stink-eye in the first round.
They keep thinking, ‘Yes’ when the rest of keep shaking our heads from side-to-side and saying, ‘Aww, aren’t they cute for thinking they can say, ‘Yes’?
Now they’re only two wins away from eliminating the defending Western Conference champs – and from making those who called them naïve look naïve for thinking that way.
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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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