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Defensive Mentality Guides Coyotes In Fifth Straight Win

Despite the fact that it was Valentine's Day on Monday night, the Phoenix Coyotes weren't showing much love for the visiting Washington Capitals at Arena. 

Playing host to Alex Ovechkin and the Caps, the Coyotes brought that stingy defense to play once again, taking a 3-2 win on Monday, their fifth in a row.

During the streak, Phoenix has not allowed their opponents to score more than two goals in any of the five games. Their first two wins of the five were shutouts, and now have won three consecutive games by a 3-2 count.

The two sides played to a scoreless first, with the Coyotes weathering an early storm on a penalty kill 19 seconds after the opening puck drop. Shots stood even after one at five a side.

The second period is where things got a little more interesting. Washington rattled off 17 shots in the period, but managed just one goal, coming on a simple wrister from Marcus Johansson. That lead wouldn't stand long, though.

Radim Vrbata, who has had the hot hand of late, carried the puck quickly up Washington's left side on Phoenix's next trip down the ice, dishing it to Ray Whitney who set Martin Hanzal up for the equalizer.

Towards the end of the period, following a Scott Hannan roughing call, the Coyotes grabbed the lead on Whitney's goal with the man advantage, for which Vrbata also notched an assist. After two, the Coyotes held a 2-1 lead despite trailing 17-6 in shots in the period.

The two goals that came in the third period also came within seconds of eachother. Less than five minutes in, Vernon Fiddler and Scottie Upshall took advantage of a 2-on-1, with Upshall crossing it to Fiddler, who fired it past Michal Neuvirth for the 3-1 lead.

Washington would add another goal seconds later, coming on a wrist shot from Matt Bradley that Ilya Bryzgalov never really seemed to see as it flew past him.

Bryzgalov stood tall, though. After being named one of the NHL's Three Stars for last week, Bryz put on a performance very similar to Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks. He controlled the puck in the crease and took a beating while doing so, stopping 29 of 31 shots on the night.

With the win, the Coyotes jump over the Dallas Stars for third in the Western Conference, and first in the Pacific Division. A great achievement to be sure, but keep in mind that seven points separate the third place Coyotes from the 11th place Blackhawks. They'll need to string together more of these performances in order to stay in the top half of the West.

They'll look for their sixth win in a row against another team from the Southeast Division, with the Atlanta Thrashers coming to Arena on Thursday night.