By: Sergey Kocharov
Photos by Norm Hall
Throughout his career Curtis Joseph has been one of the most consistent and hard-working goaltenders in the National Hockey League. And now he's enjoying the fruits of his labor.
Joseph made 28-saves in a 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night to earn his 424th career win and move into sixth place on the NHL's all-time list, passing legendary goaltender Tony Esposito.
"Curtis has been tremendous for us and has been a great comeback story," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. "The players really wanted him to get it here at home before we head out on the road, so that part was great.
"Records are pretty special at the professional level because they are the hardest ones to get. What records show is consistency and that's what he's been in his career."
"In the short term you really think of our team and what you have to do," said Joseph, who is now 12 wins behind New Jersey's Martin Brodeur for fifth place all time. "Right now, you don't really think about the big picture or the milestones. One day you'll have a chance to reflect on that. But most importantly, we won today."
Mike Comrie scored the go-ahead goal and Oleg Kvasha added an insurance marker late in the third period as the Coyotes collected two wins on a brief three-game homestand.
Comrie made it 4-2 on a two-man power play when he stuffed a rebound past Tomas Vokoun to record his 26th goal of the season. Nashville quickly responded as Martin Erat brought the Predators within striking distance with 5:19 left in regulation.
But just 39-seconds later and after a turnover in the Nashville zone, Kvasha connected with Mike Johnson to seal the win for Phoenix.
"We were feeling pretty good that we were going to get it tied up, but our defenseman stumbled and it was game, set and match," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz. "We just shot ourselves in the foot."
Despite being outplayed by the Coyotes in the opening period, the Predators broke the scoreless tie when Mike Sillinger drove a shot past Joseph to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games.
The Coyotes tied the game on Morris' high shot from the right circle with just 13-seconds left in the period. Coyotes captain Shane Doan gave Phoenix their first lead of the game at 2:27 of the second period to notch his 27th goal of the season. Nashville's Dan Hamhuis made it 2-2 with a blast from the left circle before Phoenix recaptured the lead on a great shorthanded effort. After Tyson Nash was stopped on a breakaway, Keith Ballard, who was trailing the play, capitalized on the rebound to score for the seventh time this season.
"I was lucky to get a little bit of wood on it and (Ballard) came in and cleaned up the garbage," said Nash. "It was nice to contribute offensively for a change."
Newly signed free agent Bill Thomas made his Coyotes debut on Tuesday just a day after signing an entry-level contract with Phoenix. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right wing joins the Coyotes after two amazing seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha of the CCHA. This season, Thomas collected 27 goals, 23 assists and 50 points in 41 games this season at UNO.
Defensemen Paul Mara, Jamie Rivers and center Dave Scatchard did not play for the Coyotes. Rivers is listed as day-to-day with a foot injury while Mara and Scatchard are out with the flu. Phoenix recalled Mathew Spiller from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL to fill-in on Tuesday night.
Phoenix will embark on a four-game road trip with a pair of games at San Jose. The Coyotes will play the Sharks on Thursday (8:30 p.m.) and again on Saturday (8:30 p.m.) before visiting Edmonton on Monday (6:00 p.m.) and Calgary on Wednesday (6:00 p.m.).