Phoenix Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera, left, makes a body save on a breakaway shot by Los Angeles Kings center Brad Richardson, right, in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Sitting on the bench and clinging to a one-goal lead in the third period, the Phoenix Coyotes repeated the same line to each other: "Let's go forward."
They did just that, pulling out a late goal and a much-needed win.
Behind Jason LaBarbera's superb goaltending and an aggressive approach that led to Keith Yandle's second goal late in the third period, the Coyotes opened a critical homestand with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night.
"We stayed aggressive on it," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who earned his 150th victory with the franchise. "We were real determined to make sure we gained zones in the game, not coming back with the puck a lot, just a north-south game and go hard at the net. I thought we did a good job of that."
Needing to make up ground in the Western Conference standings, Phoenix played its usual close-to-the-vest game, taking a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Instead of lying back like they did while blowing a pair of one-goal leads in the third period last week, the Coyotes kept attacking, moving pucks forward to keep the pressure on the Kings.
The ploy worked, leading to Yandle's sigh-of-relief goal with less than 3 minutes left after he beat Kings goalie Jonathan Quick on a tough-angle shot from along the boards.
Yandle also scored his 50th career goal in the first period, and Kyle Chipchura and Raffi Torres each had a pair of assists.
LaBarbera, in his fifth straight start in place of injured starter Mike Smith, made it stand with 39 saves, including 16 in the second period.
The win was the Coyotes' second in 10 games and moved them to 12th in the Western Conference, two points behind eighth-place Nashville.
"It was definitely a must-win for us," said Coyotes centre Matthew Lombardi, who scored his fourth goal of the season in the second period.
Los Angeles had some good chances, particularly early, but had a hard time getting anything past LaBarbera; its only goal, by Justin Williams, came on a carom off a Coyotes defenceman in the first period.
Quick had 28 saves for the Kings, who finished a five-game road trip 3-1-1.
"Seven out of 10 (points) is pretty good," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "It's not the way you want to finish, but we had some strong games, some character wins. We played a strong game tonight, but we just didn't finish."
The Coyotes and Kings have had a simmering rivalry because of their proximity and it ramped up during a testy Western Conference finals last season.
The Kings won that series in five games and have continued to give Phoenix problems this season, winning three of four games, including back to back in Southern California last month.
The Coyotes had added incentive to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champions, needing to go on a big late-season run to get into playoff position after struggling for most of March.
Phoenix had a decent three-game road trip, earning four of a possible six points, but needs to start earning two points at a time instead of one with five teams ahead of them for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Coyotes got off to a good start against the Kings, getting some big saves from LaBarbera—one on a mini breakaway by Brad Richardson—and goal by Yandle midway through the first period after some good work along the boards by Chipchura and Torres.
They got a bad break just over two minutes later, when a cross by Williams bounced off Phoenix defenceman Michael Stone into the goal to tie the score.
Phoenix turned up the pressure midway through the second period and took the lead back when Lombardi flipped a backhander that sent the puck rolling on end and off the far post from the right circle.
LaBarbera had some big saves late in the period, stopping Jeff Carter on an odd-man rush and Trevor Lewis from close range in the closing seconds.
"As I told the team, we probably out-chanced them by quite a margin," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Give the goalie credit and we had a lot of guys who are in that situation who usually score in that situation."
That put Phoenix up 2-1 heading into the third period, a precarious position for this team lately.
The Coyotes held one-goal leads in the third twice during their three-game road trip last week and lost both times, in overtime to Minnesota after allowing a goal with 54 seconds left and to San Jose in a shootout.
This time, Phoenix limited the chances against LaBarbera and earned some breathing room when Yandle squeezed a shot past Quick for his first two-goal game in three years.
"We played a good amount of time in their end and were able to find some goals," Yandle said.
Not to mention a bit of confidence and a spot further up the standings.
NOTES: The Coyotes recognized LW Steve Sullivan's 1,000th career game with a video tribute and ceremony before the game. Sullivan reached the milestone on Thursday against Nashville. ... Kings D Willie Mitchell will not play this season after having a second surgery on his injured knee. ... Coyotes D Zbynek Michalek missed his 11th straight game with a lower-body injury and LW Lauri Korpikoski his fourth straight with an upper-body injury. ... Phoenix C Rob Klinkhammer had an assist on Lombardi's goal, extending his points streak to five games.