Photos by Norm Hall
The Coyotes certainly like to make things interesting.
Phoenix defenseman Keith Ballard scored his second goal of the game while shorthanded in overtime and Ladislav Nagy notched his 13th goal of the season and recorded three assists, as the Coyotes beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-5 in a thriller in front of a sellout crowd of 17,799 at Glendale Arena.
While killing Mike Johnson's minor penalty in overtime, Ballard raced to the puck after a Kings turnover and beat Los Angeles goaltender Jason LaBarbera with a high wrist shot on a breakaway.
"Their point man went up for (the puck) and didn't quite get it, so it was a pretty lucky play for us," said Ballard. "I tried to take advantage and was able to flip it up and in."
Ballard was an assist short of getting a Gordie Howe hat-trick with two goals and a first period fight with Sean Avery.
"It would have been nice, but what can you do?" said Ballard with a laugh. "I'll take the win."
The Coyotes never trailed and had three leads but couldn't put the pesky Kings away in regulation. Trailing 5-4 in the third period and with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, Derek Armstrong notched his third goal of the night and tied the game with 1:11 left to play.
"We just wanted to keep playing and we did that," said Ballard. "It's one of those things when you sit and pout and sulk about it, it's not going to get any better. We were just trying to get the next one."
Paul Mara had two goals and Shane Doan collected three assists for a well-balanced Coyotes attack. The Coyotes are 8-3 in their last 11 games against Anaheim, Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles and are 8-8 against the Pacific Division this season.
"You're not going to gain ground if you're not at least .500 against your division, so it makes those games very important," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "There are so many divisional games now, maybe in the past it wasn't quiet like that, but now it's extremely important because you play so many games within your division."
Ballard and Mara scored Phoenix's goals in the third period while Armstrong carried the Kings' offense with two goals.
Ballard made it 4-3 with a quick wrist-shot between the circles just 1:04 into the period, but Armstrong countered on the power play at the 4:52 mark of the period. It seemed like Mara's second tally of the game would hold up, but Armstrong sent the game to overtime with a rebound goal in front of the net.
"You get down 5-4 with a minute left and score a goal, that's a good way to get a point," said Armstrong. "But in the end it's a terrible way to lose."
Curtis Joseph made 35 saves for the Coyotes, while LaBarbera stopped 20 shots and remained winless in his last six starts.
Enjoying a 3-1 advantage in the second period, the Coyotes coughed up the lead when the Kings struck for two goals in a 2:25 span.
Sean Avery's shorthanded effort made it 3-2 at the 11:23 mark of the period and was followed by Michael Cammalleri's backhand shot to tie the game.
"Obviously, we are disappointed to give up that many goals and get a shorthanded scored on us at the end," said Los Angeles Kings Head Coach Andy Murray. "We made some fundamental mistakes."
Nagy opened the scoring for Phoenix on a superb individual effort just 2:53 into the game. While cycling the puck in traffic, Nagy went hard to the net and pulled a swift backhand-to-forehand move to beat LaBarbera.
"(Nagy) did a great job tonight and he's been great for us all year," said Ballard. "He's a great player and tonight was one of those nights."
Mara gave Phoenix their first two-goal lead of the game at the 9:11 mark of the first period on a nice tic-tac-toe play on the power play. Doan fed a pass to Nagy, who quickly found Mara for a quick shot that beat the sprawling LaBarbera.
Armstrong brought the Kings within a goal, but Mike Comrie countered on a two-man advantage at 10:50 of the second period.
Defenseman Derek Morris missed tonight's game with a foot injury which he suffered on Wednesday night at San Jose. Matt Jones was recalled from San Antonio, Coyotes' top minor league affiliate to replace Morris in the lineup. Center Petr Nedved was scratched as well, as he continues to nurse a groin injury.
Coyotes will return to Glendale Arena on New Year's Eve to face off against the Colorado Avalanche. The game time is set for 6:00 p.m. and can be seen on FSN Arizona and heard on KDUS-1060AM, KDKB-93.3FM or on phoenixcoyotes.com by clicking on the "Listen Live" link in the Game Day section.