GLENDALE, Ariz. — With two evenly-matched teams scrapping their way to remain near the top of the Western Conference standings Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena — a place where there’s been a bastion of late-game magic this season — it’s no wonder the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche tussled well beyond regulation to decide a final outcome in their back-and-forth affair.
Fresh off a four-day hiatus, the Coyotes were the dominant puck possessors, however, it didn’t necessarily translate to the scoreboard — at least not right away.
On a night where fortuitous bounces proved to be more of the rule than the passing trend, Patrick Roy’s squad seemed to be at the right place at the right time more often than not as it went on to win 4-3 in overtime.
Following a Michael Stone cross checking penalty less than 30 seconds into the second period, the Avalanche struck first. A bouncing puck off the ensuing faceoff landed squarely on the stick of P.A. Parenteau, who promptly found John Mitchell for an easy, uncontested wrist shot that beat Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith from the slot.
The Avalanche extended its lead with under five minutes to play in the period on yet another fluky goal. After Ryan O’Reilly kept a loose puck in Colorado’s offensive zone by smothering it with his stick and body, Stone slapped right to Avalanche defenseman Andre Benoit, who was lurking above the left circle. Benoit had left the ice earlier in the frame after taking a puck to the chin, but he managed to corral the puck and fire a shot that hit off the cross bar, off Smith’s back and into the back of the net.
But Phoenix, as it has done all season long, responded after falling behind by two goals.
Atoning for his earlier mistakes, Stone got the scoring started late in the second period for the Coyotes, as his sinking low liner from just inside the red line beat Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov on his stick side. After two goals by Rob Klinkhammer and Oliver Ekman-Larsson were waved off early in third, the Coyotes continued to generate relentless pressure in their offensive zone. The end result was a second-chance put back by Martin Hanzal that beat Varlamov glove side to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Then, a bounce finally went Phoenix’s way. Well, momentarily.
After Colorado defenseman Jan Hejda took a two-minute minor for hooking, Mike Ribeiro set up Keith Yandle for a beautiful one-timer inside the left circle. The puck missed the net but ricocheted off the boards and right to Shane Doan. The Coyotes captain, who was sitting in front of the net, threw it back to Vermette for a go-ahead wrister with 5:54 remaining.
Game over, right?
The Avalanche, who reached the 15-win mark in 20 games for the first time franchise history, showed off their road mettle, scoring less than three minutes later. After David Rundblad turned the puck over in his own end, Cory McLeod made him pay, as he twisted and turned his way through traffic in the crease before netting a back-handed shot by Smith.
As if surrendering a late lead wasn’t bad enough, the Coyotes tempted fate one too many times and it cost them in the extra session. While Phoenix killed off a two-minute charging minor assessed to Hanzal late in the third period, a boneheaded slash by Yandle with 1:35 left in overtime proved to be too much.
With the clock ticking under a minute and plenty of opening ice given the 4-on-3 advantage, the Avalanche moved in on goal with a pretty give-and-go between Ryan O’Reilly and Parenteau. The final pass between the duo found O’Reilly skating in alone on the right circle. From there, he fired a wrist shot that beat Smith stick side, as Colorado rallied for the win.
Michael Stone’s seeing-eye slapper in the second period was his seventh goalon the season, tying him with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the NHL lead among defensemen.
“The one I had tonight was definitely lucky,” Stone said. “I think I’ve had a few of those. But no, I wouldn’t have predicted I’d be tied for the goals by a defenseman. Not by any means.”
Even with the loss, the Coyotes remain unbeaten at home in regulation, moving to 9-0-2 in 2013-14.
The Coyotes had 75 chances on net, 44 shots that reached Semyon Varlamov, and yet they had only three goals to show for it.
Aided by its long layoff, Phoenix appeared to be the far more aggressive and far more energized team. Yet through the first 35 minutes, those traits didn’t equate to pucks in the back of the net. In the end, those empty scoring chances came back to bite the Coyotes.
“I thought territorially, we were doing alright,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “They did a pretty good job of defending too, and Varlamov did a good job getting in front of a lot of pucks. We had a few second chances, but I don’t think we worked hard enough to get to second chances — as much as we could have.
“In the end, Marty ended up getting the tying goal on a second chance kind of thing. It was one of those games where you’ve got to work to score. Early on, I didn’t think we worked enough in some areas to score. We were working in corners and cycles and doing a lot of good things. It was a tight game. It was a good lesson for us.”
• Colorado moved to 14-0-0 when scoring first this season.
• Mike Ribeiro’s point streak (one goal and four assists) was stopped at three games.
• Phoenix defenseman Derrick Morris played for the first time since Nov. 5. The former Av recorded three shots in just under 25 minutes of ice time, but failed to notch a point.
• With his third-period assist, Shane Doan extended his point streak to seven games.
• An overtime loss still gives Phoenix 13 straight games with a point against Colorado dating back to 2006-07.
He Said It
“It’s disappointing when you don’t get those two points, there is no doubt. We got a good push in the third [period] and created good chances for ourselves. That was a strange way to finish the game, putting ourselves in four-on-three twice. It’s something you want to take back, but we have to find a way to win next time and get those two points.” — Coyotes center Antoine Vermette
The Coyotes conclude their disjointed three-game home stand with a Saturday night showdown against the Anaheim Ducks, the team currently leading the Pacific Division by one point. The puck drops at 6 p.m. and can be heard on KMVP 860 AM.