Joffrey Lupul wasn't interested in style points, just the two points the Toronto Maple Leafs earned after his deciding goal in the shootout gave them a 2-1 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.
"We weren't feeling that great about ourselves the past couple of days," Lupul said after Toronto ended a two-game losing streak and won for the second time in seven games. "It's funny how one ugly, grind-it-out win like that, we'll come to the rink feeling a lot better tomorrow, a lot more positive energy.
"It was a hard-fought game both ways. There are things we can do better; there are probably things they can do better. But it's a big two points for us. We're going to take the positives out of it, look at the things we can do better and go from there."
The shootout started with some controversy. Toronto's James van Riemsdyk was credited with a goal on the first attempt although neither referee appeared to signal the puck had gotten under goaltender Mike Smith's pad and over the goal line.
"[Referee] Paul Devorski told me '100 percent, I saw it in,'" Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Paul was looking down the other way, where you don't see him in the television camera, and you've got to take him for his word.
"He didn't point to it, but he told [goalie Mike Smith] that it was a goal."
Mikkel Boedker got the Coyotes even by scoring on the next shot, but on the third round, Lupul whipped a shot from the slot past Smith and under the crossbar before Toronto goaltender James Reimer ended the game by denying Antoine Vermette's attempt.
"Tonight was just a good, solid team effort," Reimer said after winning for the third time in as many shootouts this season. "I'm really proud of the way the guys worked. They put in a good, honest effort. We played solid for 60 minutes. I thought we contained them well and fought hard."
The Maple Leafs had lost six in a row to the Coyotes since a 5-4 victory at Phoenix on Oct. 23, 2003. They hadn't beaten them at Air Canada Centre since winning 5-3 on Oct. 17, 2002.
Reimer stopped 34 shots; Smith made 26 saves. Phoenix, 0-2-1 in its past three games, attempted 77 shots to 47 for Toronto (18-16-3) but missed the net 22 times and had 20 attempts blocked.
"It's a step in the right direction," Tippett said of getting a point. "We have a lot of guys who are banged up and trying to elevate their game. Hopefully we can build on this and go into Ottawa [on Saturday] and play well."
Phoenix (18-10-6) generated few scoring opportunities against a stubborn Toronto defense before Martin Hanzal tied the game with 4:52 left in regulation. Hanzal came out from behind the net to the left of Reimer and scored on a wraparound. It was his ninth of the season, first in eight games, and ended the Coyotes' goal drought at 108:54.
"We wanted to play a hard road game, a simple road game," Tippett said. "We were almost too simple in the first period; we didn't create anything. But our tempo got better as the game went on, and we created multiple opportunities in the third period."
The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead when Troy Bodie knocked in a rebound at 15:52 of the first period. Phoenix failed to clear its zone, and Peter Holland fed Cody Franson for a straightaway wrist shot from just inside the blue line. Smith saw the shot through traffic and made the stop, but Bodie was alone in front and backhanded the rebound through Smith's pads for his first of the season.
"We got a good forecheck," Bodie said. "I just went to the net and banged it in."
Bodie's goal was one of the few scoring chances in a first period when Toronto outshot Phoenix 8-5.
Defense continued to dominate in the second. Toronto had the best chance just after the 15-minute mark when a takeaway by Franson in the neutral zone led to a 3-on-1 break. Holland had his shot from the slot blocked and Smith dove to stop Lupul's try on the rebound.
Reimer faced one of his few tests through 40 minutes with 2:35 left in the period when he went right to left to deny defenseman Michael Stone's one-timer from well inside the right circle.
Material from team media was used in this report.
|Power Play %||20.0%||15.9%|
|% on Road||23.2%||11.0%|
|% at Home||17.0%||20.6%|
|Radim Vrbata Tripping against Nikolay Kulemin|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Cody Franson Hooking against Jeff Halpern|
|Gilbert Brule Hooking against Joffrey Lupul|
|Morgan Rielly Hooking against Antoine Vermette|