GLENDALE, Ariz. – Points-wise, the Coyotes reached the century mark for the first time ever Saturday night.
Going to the playoffs? It only seems like it's been a century between trips – but Phoenix is finally, officially, headed back to the postseason.
Lee Stempniak scored his 11th and 12th goals in 12 games as a Coyote and Wojtek Wolski added a goal and two assists against his old team as Phoenix reached the 100-point mark for the first time in franchise history with a 6-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday night.
"As a team in the room we were pretty confident as a group all season," said captain Shane Doan on Phoenix's chances to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. "But no one is going to say we were thinking 100 points and pushing for the League lead. After eight years in a row of struggles … this is a pretty good feeling."
The Coyotes actually clinched their first playoff spot in eight years earlier in the day when ninth-place Calgary was shut out in Boston. But with a sellout crowd roaring with every goal, Phoenix put an exclamation point on the big day and tied another franchise record with its 27th home win and fifth straight – including two against the Avalanche in the last three weeks.
Phoenix is also 10-1-1 in its last 12 games and has won 18 of the last 24 overall.
"We wanted to get a win and earn our way in instead of kind of backing in with Calgary's loss," said Stempniak, who has scored two goals in four of his 12 games as a Coyote. "The crowds have been great since I've been here and I'm just going to keep riding the momentum."
The Avalanche are 1-3-1 over their last five games and have allowed 21 goals in that span, slipped to eighth place in the West as they head to San Jose to face the conference-leading Sharks on Sunday.
"We're not playing well enough as a team right now and that's the bottom line," said Colorado goalie Craig Anderson. "Yeah, I'd like a goal back here or there, but we can't be giving up 2-on-1's or 3-on-2's and expect to win hockey games. We're not getting those kinds of chances and we can't be giving up those kinds of chances."
After a listless first period that featured fluky goals on both sides – Derek Morris for Phoenix and ex-Coyote Kevin Porter for Colorado – Phoenix coach Dave Tippett flip-flopped centers Vernon Fiddler and Matthew Lombardi to start the second and both lines responded quickly with a goal.
Shortly after Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov -- who added to his personal and franchise records with his 40th win of the season -- made a huge save on Colorado's Milan Hejduk, Wolski took a pass from Stempniak and beat Anderson over the left shoulder to give Phoenix the lead for good at 6:20. Then at 9:25, Fiddler pulled a puck off the boards behind the net and fed Taylor Pyatt, who beat Anderson high to the short side.
Playing in his 600th NHL game, Pyatt scored just his second goal in the last 29 games and added an assist -- not to mention a decisive victory in a first-period fight with Colorado's Chris Stewart.
Hedjuk brought Colorado back within a goal with his 22nd of the season in the final minute of the period. But the third period belonged to Phoenix and Stempniak, who now has 26 goals this season and at least one in eight of his 12 games with Phoenix.
The first came on the rush at 4:56 when he beat Anderson with a shot off the right post. Then at 16:37, he pounced on a power-play rebound to put the Coyotes in command at 5-2. Phoenix's late barrage gives it 10 third-period goals in its last six games.
"He's finding a way to score goals and they were timely goals tonight," Tippett said. "The first goal in the third period was a big goal for us. We were turning the puck over and seemed to give them some momentum, then Step comes down and gets that goal."
Peter Mueller, who has five goals and 15 points since leaving Phoenix for Colorado in the Wolski trade, was scratched with a hip injury just before game time.
1 - 0 PHX
1 - 1 Tie
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2 - 1 PHX
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3 - 1 PHX
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3 - 2 PHX
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4 - 2 PHX
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5 - 2 PHX
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