The Phoenix Coyotes (20-17-6) came into Madison Square Garden on an emotional high Tuesday after beating the New York Islanders 5-1 and captain Shane Doan getting netting his first hat trick of his career. Doan scored his third goal away with no time left on the clock, which coincidentally is how the Coyotes lost to the New York Rangers (27-9-4) in their last matchup on Dec. 17th.
The Coyotes are part of a seven team cluster that are battling for playoff births and seeding. With 45 points the Coyotes are just three points behind Minnesota for the final playoff seed and know that every game matters now. "We haven't been as good as we've wanted to be for the last three weeks," Doan told NHL.com. "We haven't had a long, bad losing streak, but we've lost three here, two more there, and it adds up. As a team, we hadn't lost three straight previous to that in the two years that Tipp's been our coach, so we have to get it going back in the right direction."
The Coyotes would have their hands full Tuesday against the streaking Rangers. Not only do the Rangers sit atop the power-packed Eastern Conference with 56 points and a 9-1 record in their last ten, a 26-9-4 record is the best in the NHL.
The Coyotes were looking to carry over the emotion of Saturday's win and Paul Bissonnette would do his part. Just two minutes into the game fan-favorite "Biznasty" would drop the gloves with the Rangers Mike Rupp off of a face-off. The fight would spark the Coyotes bench against the talented Rangers roster, even though the scoreboard would not see any action until the third period. The teams battled to a 0-0 tie through two periods..
Early in the third period Ruslan Fedotenko would net the Rangers only goal of regulation. The goal was a quick snapshot from the point off a rebound and has to be credited to the traffic the Rangers Brian Boyle provided in from of Mike Smith.
When the Coyotes have needed a goal this year Radim Vrbata has risen to the opportunity time and time again. Down 1-0 with less than half of the third period left Vrbata put in a laser slap shot from the slot past Henrik Lundqvist. The goal was Vrbata's 20th of the year.
The teams would need extra time to decided this one and entered the overtime period tied 1-1.
The Coyotes and Rangers would trade shots in the overtime but the only real chance came when Adrian Aucoin was called for a penalty that put Marian Gaborik, the Rangers leading goalscorer, at center ice for a penalty shot. Smith looked beat on the chance but managed to get his stick on the puck in a sprawling effort that will be seen on highlight reels for years to come. The overtime period would end 1-1 and the game would have to be decided in a shootout.
After Oliver Ekman-Larsson was stopped by Lundqvist and the first two Rangers would lose the puck before getting a shot off, Radim Vrbata would score on his patented backhand deke. Gaborik was up next for the Rangers and Smith could not stop him twice. His goal would tie the shootout 1-1. Five more players would miss until the Rangers center Derek Stepan would beat Smith high glove to make it 2-1. Doan would have to score to push the shootout to another round, but the Coyote captain would miss, ending the game.
Mike Smith came up with one of his best performances of the year against the Rangers Tuesday, despite the loss. Smith would end the game with 31 saves. Lundqvist would stop 18 against the 'Yotes.
While the Coyotes may have lost the game, they escaped with a valuable point and confidence. The Desert Dogs have shown to be competitive with the best teams in the league and have had two nail-bitting finishes with the Rangers, the team with the NHL's best record. While the game may go down in the overtime loss column the Coyotes should be able to take a lot away from the game.
The Coyotes next game is Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. Game time is 5:30 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona.
The 5-foot-11, 174 pound Brule has recorded 8-10-18 in 27 games this season with the Oklahoma City Barons, the Oilers American Hockey League. In 2010-11, the Edmonton, Alberta native appeared in 41 games with the Oilers, registering 7-2-9 and 41 penalty minutes (PIM). Brule was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round (sixth overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft.