Photo Credit: Norm Hall
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
Dallas - Marty Turco
On Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes dropped a 1-0 decision to their Pacific Division rivals, the Dallas Stars. Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph kept Phoenix close with his impressive 34-save performance, but in the end, a power play goal by Stars forward Brenden Morrow would prove to be the difference.
Early in the opening period, the Stars forced a turnover deep in the Phoenix zone; forcing Coyotes center Dave Scatchard to take a hooking penalty in order to prevent a early scoring opportunity. As a result, the Phoenix penalty-killing unit was called upon to neutralize the Stars offensive attack. With the lone exception being a single shot from the left face-off circle, which goaltender Curtis Joseph easily turned aside, the Stars were completely unable to generate a legitimate scoring threat.
Just seconds after the penalty to Scatchard expired, defenseman Keith Ballard, who returned to the lineup for the first time since sustaining a hand injury back on October 9, delivered a huge hit on Dallas' Jere Lehtinen, sending both players to the ice.
At 10:19 of the first, the Stars nearly grabbed the first lead of the game when a Dallas forward blasted a slap shot from the right side that beat Joseph and rang off the right goal post before re-directing to the other side of the ice, where the Coyotes could carry the puck out the of the zone.
With 6:52 to play in the opening period, the Stars were given their second power play of the evening when a scuffle between Dallas' Matthew Barnaby and defenseman Nick Boynton appeared to be heading toward a fight. But when Boynton dropped the gloves and gave Barnaby a shot, the Stars forward, kept his gloves on and immediately fell to the ice, drawing a roughing penalty against Boynton.
Fortunately, the Stars would only see six seconds of their man-advantage as Stars forward Jeff Halpern was called for hooking moments later. The two clubs would spend the next 1:54 with four skaters aside, but neither would be able to use the extra ice to their advantage and make the first mark on the scoreboard.
After the Coyotes and Stars returned to full strength, Dallas dominated the next shift, flooding the Phoenix crease with bodies and sending a series of shots to the net. However, Joseph was equal to the task, showing that he had rebounded from his last two starts as he turned away his 13th and 14th shots of the period.
Behind the stellar play of "Cujo," the Coyotes were able to hold the Stars offense off the scoreboard and head to the locker room after one period of play tied at 0-0.
The second period began with the Stars picking up where they left off in the first period, as they continued to fire shots at Joseph and the Coyotes net. Over the first two minutes of the period, Dallas posted four shots on goal as a result of their ability to control the puck in the offensive zone.
At 2:01 of the second, the Coyotes were handed their third penalty of the game when center Jeremy Roenick was sent to the box for holding-the-stick. This time, the Phoenix penalty killing unit would be unable to keep the Stars attack off the scoreboard as Dallas forward Brendan Morrow sent a shot from the left side of the net, over the shoulder of Joseph for a 1-0 Stars lead.
Phoenix was given a chance to even the score at 5:28 of the period when Jere Lehtinen was assessed a two-minute minor for high-sticking. With the man-advantage, the Coyotes were able to establish their first sustained offensive attack of the night, including registering a trio of shots, but were unable to find the back of the net, as the Stars maintained their one-goal lead.
At 12:40 of the second stanza, the Coyotes received their second straight power play when Stars forward Eric Lindros was whistled for interference. Despite having the extra attacker, the Phoenix power play unit was unable to generate an offensive rhythm as Dallas continually interrupted the Coyotes attack until Lindros could return to the ice.
With just 35 seconds remaining in the period, the Coyotes went back on the man-advantage when Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas was sent to the penalty box for holding. Phoenix would be unable to capitalize in the final seconds of the period, but would begin the third period with nearly 1:25 of power play time.
The Coyotes began the third period on the power play and were able to keep the puck deep in the Stars end, but the Dallas penalty killing unit did a good job of closing off shooting lanes and keeping the Coyotes pressure contained to the outside for the remainder of the penalty.
Minutes after the conclusion of the Stars penalty to Robidas, Lindros was sent back to the box for hooking at 3:40 of the third. Phoenix began to bring their offensive attack to the next level as they controlled the tempo and increased their own shot total. At the five-minute mark of the third, the Coyotes finally beat Turco with a blast from the point; unfortunately, the puck ricocheted off the crossbar and into the corner before Phoenix could capitalize.
The Coyotes would call on their penalty-killing unit at 7:36 of the third when Oleg Saprykin was called handed a roughing call. This time, the Stars power play would be the ones scrambling as the Coyotes defense continually cleared the zone and sent the play back into the Dallas end, effectively ending the Stars man-advantage.
Late in the third period, the Coyotes tried to make a final effort to pull even with the Stars when they pulled Joseph from the nets in favor of an extra attacker, but a penalty to Ladislav Nagy with one minute left in regulation nullified Phoenix's five-on-four advantage as Dallas held on to top the Coyotes by the score of 1-0.