Mar 1., 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) during the first period against the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
What a few days it has been for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Tuesday, the Coyotes lost in a shootout to the Dallas Stars and were on the outside looking in on the playoff race. Wednesday, the 'Yotes learned that captain Shane Doan would be suspended for three crucial games following an elbow on Jamie Benn of the Stars. Then Thursday, the Coyotes would take down a streaking Colorado Avalanche team 3-2 to recapture a playoff spot and briefly, the Pacific Division lead.
The question entering Thursday's game was who would step up in the absence of Doan. Raffi Torres answered that question early against the Avalanche.
The scrappy forward would be the tally an assist on an early first period Daymond Langkow goal, as both of them banged away at a loose puck. Then Torres would put away his sixth goal in twelve games on a long rebound that would end up being the game-winner.
The savvy veteran Torres does not only get on the scoresheet, but also fills a void left by the Doan suspension as an emotional leader. He has playoff experience and is not scared to throw his body around, or drop the gloves to get the team going.
The Langkow goal was a rare early goal for the Coyotes. The Desert Dogs are 28-4-5 when scoring first, but they have only scored first once in the month of March.
Kyle Chipchura scored his third of the year on a beautiful, feathered pass from Ray Whitney. Whitney now has a team leading 70 points and is only four shy of joining the exclusive 1,000 point club. Only 80 other players in NHL history have accomplished that feat.
Mike Smith would not have wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday any other way. The Coyote backstop made 39 saves Thursday and captured his 100th career victory.
The Avalanche would make a late run with goals from Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny, but it was too little, too late.
With the win the Coyotes sat atop to Pacific Division for a few hours, but after the Los Angeles Kings won in a shootout late Thursday, the Coyotes would drop to seventh place. The 'Yotes cannot get comfortable though. They go to San Jose Saturday night, and then will visit the Western Conference leading St. Louis Blues Sunday.