Recap: Coyotes continue playoff push with 2-1 win over Panthers

The NHL's two remaining "problem children" played it close to the vest last night in Glendale.

In a season chock full of them, the Florida Panthers dug themselves yet another 2-0 first period hole and ended up dropping game two of their current four-game trek out west by a 2-1 count to the Phoenix Coyotes. The win gave the Yotes a clean sweep of the two-game season series with the Cats.

A holding penalty on Jimmy Hayes led to Radim Vrbata's power-play goal at 2:56 of the opening period. Vrbata knocked in a puck which defelected off the skate of Martin Hanzal after being originally shot by Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

After killing off a pair of Florida power plays, the Desert Dogs added to their lead later in the frame when Antoine Vermette notched a disputed goal from Michael Stone and Mikkel Boedker. Roberto Luongo stopped Stone's intial bid, but was knocked to the ice by Boedker, allowing Vermette to deposit the rebound into an empty net.

This looked like an interference call, but as is wont to happen, the Panthers did not get any help from the crew of zebras working the game.

The highlight of an uneventful and scoreless second period, that saw the teams combine for a paltry fourteen shots, was a fight between Joey Crabb and Phoenix defensman Chris Summers.

Florida finally got on the board late in the third period when Scott Gomez scored his second of the season. Dmitry Kulikov picked up the only helper on the goal.

The Panthers had just over four minutes to come up with the equalizer but could not beat Coyotes goaler Mike Smith. Smith finished with 22 saves to backstop Phoenix to their third straight win, giving the Dogs a four-point lead over Dallas for the Western Conference's final wild card berth.

The Panthers, who have not won back to back games since January, will head to SoCal for a weekend set against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks

Odds & Ends

  • In a game where goals where at a premium, the Panthers really could have used one on the power play. Instead they came up empty again, finishing 0 for 3 with the man-advantage.
  • The Cats have been pretty leaky on defense lately, but they did a nice job last night in holding the Coyotes to just 22 shots on goal.
    Radim Vrbata is a UFA after this season. Master of the blueprint Dale Tallon might want to take a look at adding the winger, who hit the 20-goal mark for the fourth time, during the summer if he doesn't re-up with Coyotes first.
  • The Panthers have now allowed a league-high 31 power-play goals. Addressing the issues on special teams must be high priority during the offseason and in training camp.
  • The three-game winning streak is Phoenix's longest since they ran off five in a row from October 26th to November 5th.
  • Mike Smith was at his best in third period when the Cats had the better of the chances. Smith posted his 27th win of the season and lowered his GAA to 2.64.
  • This was Florida last meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes. The club will be known as the Arizona Coyotes after the 2013-14 campaign ends.
  • For more Cats versus Dogs drop by Five For Howling./