After struggling mightily for a healthy (or unhealthy) portion of their recent six game road trip, the Phoenix Coyotes did manage to salvage a bit, defeating the division rival Dallas Stars by a count of 1-0, in Dallas.
The win was just the Coyotes' second of the trip, with the other coming over a week ago, against the Islanders in New York. Since that win, the Coyotes had been outscored 10-2 in the two games following, in Pittsburgh and San Jose.
After facing some explosive offensive teams, the Coyotes were involved in a duel among the two goalies on Sunday night. Jason LaBarbera led the way for the Coyotes, posting his first shutout of the year. He stopped all 30 Dallas shots after allowing nine goals in his previous two starts.
In the Dallas crease, it was Kari Lehtonen, who has been impressive all year for Dallas. After missing the game the last time these two teams faced, Lehtonen did all he could to try and steal the victory for Phoenix, but his team couldn't back him up on the offensive end. Lehtonen stopped 24 of the 25 Phoenix shots, failing only to stop Kyle Turris' second period goal.
The Coyotes accomplished everything necessary to scratch out a win against the Pacific Division's top team. It began with stopping the Stars' top line of James Neal, Loui Eriksson, and Brad Richards. Both Eriksson and Richards were on five game scoring streaks, and none of the three were able to do anything against the Coyotes' stingy D.
That defense was something the Coyotes had been lacking in in recent games, particularly their past two. After seeing Penguin and Shark forwards skate circles around them, the Phoenix blueliners didn't allow much of anything to a solid group from Dallas, keeping their opponents under 35 shots for just the second time on the road trip. That group included Ed Jovanovski, who was playing in his 1,000th game.
The biggest improvement for the Coyotes was their lack of time spent in the penalty box. After making themselves at home in the sin bin, the Yotes managed to stay out, going on the penalty kill just twice. Their tendency for penalties had killed them in recent games, having been forced to play many of the same players for special teams, which wore them out throughout the games.
While a 2-3-1 road trip is nothing to be too excited about, a win against the top team in their division should give the Coyotes some confidence as they return home to Jobing.com Arena this week. Instead of going into a couple of divisional showdowns 11 points behind the division leading Stars, they'll be just seven back.
The two points earned on Sunday has things looking up for a pair of division showdowns early in the week, the first of which will be Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.