The LA Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes last night in a shootout. With this win, the Kings clinched a berth in the 2011 playoffs. The Phoenix Coyotes gained point for taking the game to overtime, but failed to clinch a playoff berth.
The Phoenix Coyotes held a 2-1 lead after the first period thanks to goals by Lee Stempniak and Taylor Pyatt. Kyle Clifford scored his 7th goal of the season for the Kings in the second to tie up the game. The two teams skated to scoreless third and overtime periods, and the game proceeded to a shootout. Michal Handzus and Jarret Stoll scored shootout goals for LA. Jonathan Quick only allowed Radim Vrbata to score for the Coyotes, and the Coyotes fell by a score of 3-2.
With this win, the Kings have clinched a berth in the 2011 playoffs and currently sit in the 4th spot in the western conference. By only gaining one point, the Coyotes have fallen into a tie for 5th with the Nashville Predators. If the playoffs were to start today, the Coyotes would face their old foe the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
The Coyotes have only won 1 of their last 4 games, and their last 3 games have gone to a shootout. This can be seen as a good thing though, cause the Coyotes have been a streaky team all year, so perhaps its good for them to get these losses out now before the playoffs.
The Coyotes have had trouble winning games recently, but that’s not because they aren’t trying. In regards to last night’s game, Coach Dave Tippett said, “We did everything we could to win the game. We made a couple of mistakes on their goals, but in the end we competed hard and tried to find a win. Unfortunately we only got one point. We’ve got to find our way into the playoffs in the last two games.”
One bright spot for the Coyotes in last nights game was their welcoming Lauri Korpikoski, Ed Jovanovski, and Taylor Pyatt back to the lineup. Jovanovski had nearly 18 minutes of ice-time and took 2 shots and blocked 2 shots. Pyatt joined his linemates Lee Stempniak and Vernon Fiddler. This line scored both goals and Fiddler assisted on both goals.
Vrbata has improved to 7 for 11 in shootouts this year after his shootout goal last night.
The Coyotes will end the year with a home and home series against the San Jose Sharks, a team that has given the Coyotes trouble all year. The Coyotes only need one point to clinch a playoff spot, but 2 wins over the Sharks could give this team the boost it needs going into the playoffs. Right now the Coyotes are floundering. The return of Jovanovski, Korpikoski, and Pyatt are welcome, but this team still misses Martin Hanzal. Once all of these guys are back and healthy, the Coyotes can focus on playing their game and going deep into the playoffs. The problem right now is that all these guys need to not only get back into the pace of NHL play, but they need to adjust to the pace of NHL playoff play.
The Coyotes next game will be Friday at 10 pm eastern time at home. This is the Coyotes last regular season home game, and a must win.