The Phoenix Coyotes needed a night where they could take a lead and finish off an NHL opponent. Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena, they got it.
The Coyotes also made their coach. Dave Tippett, look like a genius for changing up his personnel and creating different line combinations. The No. 2 line of left winger Ray Whitney, center Martin Hanzal and right winger Radim Vrbata turned in the top performance of the night in Glendale, Whitney scoring twice, Hanzal adding a goal and an assist and Vrbata a pair of assists in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.
Raffi Torres and Patrick O'Sullivan added goals for Phoenix (4-3-2) which won its second game in five at home so far this season.
O'Sullivan opened the scoring at the 13:42 mark of the first period, inadvertently kicking the pick in the crease as he was being knocked down. The puck hit a skate and another Devils' player and got past goaltender Johan Hedberg.
What followed was a four-minute replay review, but the goal counted.
The Devils tied it at the 14-minute, 15-second mark of the period (5:45 left with Zach Parise's backhand wrap-around into a clear net as Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith had mistakenly come out of the net.
Phoenix had its best first period of the season to date with 19 shots on goal.
Whitney got his first goal on a second-period power play, his fourth goal of the season, to tie the score at 2 after the Devils took their only lead. Torres put in a rebound off a shot by Daymond Langkow that was stopped, scoring with 48 seconds left in the period, and Phoenix went into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.
Third periods are where the Coyotes have struggled to put teams away and prevent comebacks. Not this time.
Whitney zipped up the left side and fed Hanzal for a shot and goal at the 7:44 mark of the period. Two minutes and 10 seconds later, Hanzal returned the favor, centering to Whitney for a shot between Hedberg's legs and into the net.
The Devils got a goal off a faceoff with six seconds to play to end the scoring.