Sometimes it really is amazing to think about how the Phoenix Coyotes keep playing hard -- and winning -- in the face of a tenuous ownership situation, a lot of small crowds at home and the fact that the desert of Arizona is a far-off outpost for the National Hockey League. The Coyotes laughed in the face of adversity again Tuesday night, losing a two-goal lead but winning the overtime shootout 2-0 in their 3-2 win over one of the NHL's flagship franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Several Coyotes were making a return to their hometown or hometown area, and two local boys came up big. Goaltender Mike Smith, from nearby Kingston, Ont., had 35 saves, including two in the shootout. Smith stopped great chances from Tyler Bozak and Matthew Lombardi within five seconds of each other with 4:45 to play in the third period and the game tied. Then he got Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin to miss their shots during the shootout.
Patrick O'Sullivan, a Toronto native, scored the first shootout goal, and Radim Vrbata got the clincher on the next shot as Phoenix improved to 9-4-3.
The Coyotes scored first and looked like they might blow out the Leafs at home, a night after NHL legends were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame just down the street from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Shane Doan scored not two minutes into the game, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson put one in a few minutes later.
It was a sign of good things to come for the Coyotes, who improved to 8-0-3 when scoring first in games.
Neither team was able to score until the third period. The Maple Leafs made it 2-1 at the 2:08 mark of the third when Lombardi passed from behind the net to Mike Komisarek for a goal. Two and a half minutes later, Kessel tied it after a penalty for cross checking on the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal gave the Leads a power play.
As the game drew to a close in regulation time, Smith stopped shots by Lombardi and Dion Phaneuf inside of three minutes left to play.
The Coyotes won a shootout for the first time in three such situations this season.