Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan sent a message in a first period fight Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings, and his teammates heard loud and clear. With an opportunity to gain two points on the Kings and jump to seventh in the standings, the Coyotes played a game where they left everything on the ice.
The Coyotes came into the game with only 12 fights this year. In the first period alone, there were three.
The ruckus got started less than five minutes in to the game after Kings captain Dustin Brown put a hit on Rostislav Klesla that sent Klesla to the locker room. Doan, the Coyote captain, came to bat for the injured Klesla at the next face off, dropping the gloves with Brown. Doan got the best of Brown in the captain-on-captain brawl and sent him to the ice after delivering some big blows.
The physical contest would continue with both teams delivering solid checks on a regular basis, but it would not be until 15:18 of the period till the next scrum would ensue. Anze Kopitar came in with speed towards the net and ran over Mike Smith after being pushed by Adrian Aucoin. The usually level-headed Coyote goaltender quickly scrambled to his feet and went after Kopitar.
At one point in the altercation every Coyote player on the ice was matched up with an opponent. Even Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was at his blue line, in case Smith needed an additional sparring partner. Old time hockey at its best.
Next up on the fight card would be Mike Richards and Martin Hanzal. Richards went after Hanzal after a questionable hit and the two exchanged some punches. After a brief scrum the two made their way to penalty box for a five minute rest.
With gloves dropping like flies, there was only one way the first period was going to end. The scrappy Raffi Torres and Colin Fraser ended the period with a center-ice bout and gave their teammates some company in the penalty box going into the first intermission.
The teams combined for 40 minutes of penalties in the period.
While both teams were still on edge going into the second, emotions seemed to settle. The game was a high octane physical battle, but someone would eventually have to score to get the all-important two points.
In a game that featured a total of 62 penalty minutes, the only power play goal would come on a delay of game penalty after Kings defenseman Jack Johnson flipped the puck out of play.
Ray Whitney has had a Peyton Manning like presence playing quarterback at the top of the power play, and it has made a difference. Whitney found Radim Vrbata wide open on the right wing, and the Czech sniper went bar down on Quick for his 27th of the year.
The last time Paul Bissonnette played for the Coyotes was Jan. 10, but Thursday night could not have been a better situation for the hard-nosed forward to be inserted back into the lineup. Going into the third period there had already been three fights, and multiple scrums, but the notorious scrapper Bissonnette had not been involved in one of them.
Early in the third period "Biznasty" would find a dancing partner. In the heavyweight match up of the night, Bissonnette would drop the gloves with Kevin Westgarth. The two tangled for a while, exchanging big overhand blows and would eventually be broken up against the boards by the referees. The fight ignited the Staples Center crowd once again.
The Kings picked up the pace in the third period, and after Michal Rozsival got called for cross checking at 18:30 of the third, it looked like the Kings would have the perfect opportunity to tie it up. Fortunately for the Coyotes, they have the hottest goaltender in the NHL in net.
Thursday, Smith would record his second consecutive shutout and get his 24th victory of the year. The Coyote goaltender turned aside 28 shots in the win, many of those being big-time saves on point blank chances.
"Were not winning by accident, were winning because we deserve to win," Smith told reporters after the game.
The Coyotes will have an opportunity to run their consecutive point streak to eight Saturday, at home against the Dallas Stars. The game can be seen at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Arizona.