Coyotes Gain A Point, But Fall to Florida Panthers In Phoenix

Scott Clemmensen stopped 40 of 41 shots to lead the Florida Panthers in a win over the Coyotes in Phoenix.

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Phoenix Coyotes Can't Solve Scott Clemmensen In Loss To Florida Panthers

Just like it did last season, this year's contest between the Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers took a shootout to determine a winner.  This time, the Panthers emerged from the game with the two points, after Michael Frolik slipped the game-winner past Ilya Bryzgalov in the fith round of the shootout, giving Florida the 2-1 win.

In what was expected to be a high scoring game, at least for the Coyotes, the only two goals that were scored came in the second period.  It was Frolik who tickled the twine, his fifth of the year, midway through the second to give the Panthers the edge.  The Coyotes answered back later in the period, when Martin Hanzal converted on the power play to even the score.

It wasn't as if the Coyotes didn't have their chances.  They had 41 shots on Florida backup Scott Clemmensen.  While any sort of shooting was expected to produce for the Coyotes against a struggling Florida goaltending corps, Clemmensen was solid all night, stopping 40 of those 41 shots, on his way to earning first star of the game honors.

In the Phoenix net, Ilya Bryzgalov had a stellar game in his own right.  Most didn't expect too much from a struggling Panthers offensive attack, but Bryz faced 37 shots on goal in regulation, stopping 36 of them.

In the end, it may have been the penalties that hurt the Coyotes yet again.  In regulation, the Panthers were 0-for-2 on the power play, mustering up just one shot.  While they failed to convert in the extra frame as well, playing down certainly hurt Phoenix's chances of winning it in overtime.

After starting a rush that gave the Coyotes a chance early, Ray Whitney was hit with a hooking call that sent him for the box for two.  As Phoenix was inching closer to killing off Whitney's penalty, the refs got the Yotes for too many men on the ice, sending Taylor Pyatt to the box for the remainder of OT.  The Coyotes spent the majority of the overtime trying to kill penalties, while really seeing only one chance on a two-on-one with Keith Yandle and Ed Jovanovski.

In the shootout, neither team was ready to budge, taking five rounds to decide the winner.  Lee Stempniak was stoned by Clemmensen in the first, before Mike Santorelli slipped his five-hole past Bryzgalov.  The Coyotes next two shooters, Radim Vrbata and Scottie Upshall, netted theirs, with Florida going 1-for-2 to force extra rounds.

Whitney and Florida's David Booth both failed to capitalize in the sudden death frame, but Clemmensen's stop of Lauri Korpikoski opened the door for Frolik to put it past Bryzgalov for the win.

While a loss like this is tough to stomach, the Coyotes do have some positives to take from this.  Easily the better team throughout the night, Phoenix was simply the victim of a hot goaltender, which is a huge monster to deal with.  Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks what they thought of Roberto Luongo on Friday night.

The Coyotes don't have much time to rebound from the loss.  They'll head to Anaheim for a rematch of last weekend's loss to the Ducks, which ended their seven-game win streak.

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Coyotes Return To Phoenix For Tilt With Florida Panthers

After a brief two-game road trip to Nashville and Minnesota, the Phoenix Coyotes will return to friendly Jobing.com Arena to host the Florida Panthers. The Coyotes return home after splitting that two game road trip to the Midwest. They dropped the first to the Nashville Predators, despite controlling the game at full strength.

In the end, the Coyotes spent too much time in the sin bin, and the Preds' two power play goals were too much to overcome, with the Yotes on the short end of a 3-0 game.

While Wednesday night looked like it was going to be a similar issue, Phoenix rebounded from some early mistakes, and staved off a late rally from the Minnesota Wild, to salvage their road swing.  Similar to their bout with Nashville, the Coyotes dominated the five-on-five play, but didn't have a penalty kill after the first period, escaping Minnesota with a 4-2 win.

While the Panthers remain one of the National Hockey League's least supported teams, many remember the contest between these two clubs last season.  Trailing the Panthers 3-0, the Coyotes mounted a rally, including a fluke goal from Radim Vrbata that bounced from behind the blue line over the glove of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, to tie it and force a shootout.  As they did so many times last season in the shootouts, the Coyotes ended up winning the game, with all three regulation goals coming in the third period.

The Panthers come in with just 20 points in 24 games, 18 behind the conference leading Washington Capitals.  While former Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon has given this team hope, it's clear that it's going to be a while before we see Florida hanging with the league's best.  They've won just three times in their last 10 contests.

However, that doesn't mean the Coyotes should take this squad from the Sunshine State lightly.  The Panthers have at least put up a decent fight in the majority of their losses, and are backed by solid goaltending in Vokoun.  The veteran goaltender has posted solid numbers overall this season, including a .918 save percentage, but has really struggled in his last few starts, giving up seven in his last two combined.  Could we see backup Scott Clemmensen?  Unlikely.

Ilya Bryzgalov should be back between the pipes for the Coyotes, after Jason LaBarbera saw his first start since November 10th on Wednesday in Minnesota.  Bryz was riding an impressive hot streak before being stopped in his tracks against the Anaheim Ducks, when he surrendered six goals.  His start against Nashville on Tuesday wasn't terrible, but the Coyotes couldn't muster any offense for him.  He should be rested and ready for Florida on Saturday.

The key to the game for the Coyotes is to stay out of the box.  While this should be the key for any game, the Panthers, similar to the Preds, are a struggling team on offense, but if given a good amount of power play chances, they're going to make you pay.  

A simple formula for a victory, to be sure.  With the Coyotes' prowess on offense, the recent struggles of the Panthers should be easy to exploit, but with this Phoenix team having a recent penchant for taking bad penalties, Saturday could end up being another very interesting meeting between these clubs.

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