A playoff atmosphere was in full effect Tuesday at American Airlines Arena as the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes battled for the lead in the Pacific Division.
The Coyotes would mount another third period comeback to force overtime and an eventual shootout, but it would be the Stars who escaped with the 4-3 shootout win and two points.
Mike Ribero would tally three assist in regulation, and then score the lone shootout goal to give the Stars the victory and sole possession of first place in the division.
Tuesday's game had everything a hockey fan could ask for: hits, fights, goals and big saves.
The teams would trade goals in the first period, but the contest would not heat up until early in the second. After the Stars went up 2-1 on a Michael Ryder goal, Coyote captain Shane Doan would take down Jamie Benn with a questionable elbow that sent the 22-year-old forward to the ice. The incident sparked a riot on the rink that resulted in 64 minutes of penalties.
It is expected that the NHL will review the incident between Doan and Benn. Doan could be facing a suspension, and at such a critical time of the year a suspension is the last thing the Coyotes need, especially with key players already missing time with injuries.
Ryder would add another goal late in the period giving the Stars a 3-1 lead going into the third, but the scrappy Coyotes refused to go down without a fight.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson would put in a shorthanded goal at 8:51 of the third, and then the "Wizard" Ray Whitney would put a laser over the shoulder of Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen to tie the game 3-3. The goals were Ekman-Larsson's 12th and Whitney's 23rd of the season.
The overtime period would be one of the most exciting of the year as the teams battled for the all-important second point. Ekman-Larsson had the best chance to end the sudden-death period, but would be stopped by a sprawling Lehtonen who stacked the pads on him. Then, just moments later, the Coyotes would hit the post on a rebound opportunity.
Lehtonen may want to buy a lottery ticket on his way home from the game because luck was definitely on his side Tuesday.
Mikkel Boedker, Whitney and Doan would all miss in the shootout for the Coyotes. Mike Smith would only be beat by Ribeiro, who saw Smith's lunging poke check coming and went easily around him for the goal.
Smith would stop 30 shots for the Coyotes Tuesday against the Stars.
While the Coyotes did not get the win, forcing overtime and getting at least one point in the standings was much-needed. The Coyotes currently sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and are holding on for dear life as four other teams slug it out for the remaining playoff seeds.
The Coyotes face the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, at Jobing.com Arena in another game with playoff implications.