(Photos Courtesy of Jeff Vinnick)
On Wednesday night, the Phoenix Coyotes dropped a 3-2 decision to the Vancouver Canucks in the opening game of the 2005-06 regular season.
The game began at a brisk pace as the Coyotes showed the early jump, controlling the play offensively and forcing the Canucks to play defense first in order to keep Phoenix off the scoreboard.
As the opening period wore on, Vancouver began to find their footing and fought back, but Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph made a series of big saves to keep the game scoreless.
As the opening period wound down, rookie defenseman Keith Ballard made a truly selfless play when he dropped to the ice to block a slap shot from the point. The shot deflected off Ballard's upper body and out of harm's way, as the first year blueliner earned points among his teammates for the sacrifice.
Early in the second period, the Canucks found the back of the net as Trevor Linden deflected a shot form the point, down to the ice and through the legs of Joseph for the 1-0 lead.
Phoenix would battle hard to try and tie the game in the second period, but Vancouver netminder Dan Cloutier turned aside the Coyotes shots to preserve the Canucks lead.
Late in the period, Vancouver's Markus Naslund would make it a two-goal game when he jumped on a loose puck at the Phoenix blue line, raced in and backhanded a shot into the net for a 2-0 lead. The score would remain 2-0 after two periods of play as the Coyotes went into their locker room searching for a way to start a comeback. In the third period, rookie defenseman Keith Ballard would get the Phoenix offense started.
Ballard, who had played an inspired game all night at both ends of the ice, found himself in slot of the Canucks zone late in the third period. Ballard saw a pass coming from the right side of the ice, once he received the pass, Ballard skated in on Cloutier and roofed a shot over the goaltender's should to cut the lead to 2-1.
"It was a play where I worked my way in deep and they (Vancouver) just forgot about me," said Ballard. "The pass came right to me and I just tried to get it high over the shoulder and it went in."
But just 19 seconds later, the Canucks regained the two-goal lead when Naslund faked a pass on a two-on-one and drilled a shot into the Phoenix net for a 3-1 lead.
The Coyotes refused to give up and with less than a minute to play, Phoenix forward Oleg Saprykin, who had created several quality scoring chances on the night, backhanded a puck at the top of the crease, past Cloutier to pull the Coyotes to within one.
Phoenix tried to tie the game late as they pulled goaltender Curtis Joseph for the extra attacker, but Vancouver made a late clearing of the zone and held on for the 3-2 victory.
PENALTY KILLING CONTINUES
Build off one of their strongest traits of the preseason, the Coyotes penalty killing units kept the Canucks from cashing in on the man-advantage Wednesday night. Vancouver finished 0-for-4 on the power play.
BALLARD IMPRESSIVE IN DEBUT
Rookie Keith Ballard looked like a rugged NHL veteran on Wednesday as he continually sacrificed his body, initiated physical play and led offensive rushed up the ice.
As if playing in his first NHL game wasn't enough, Ballard recorded his first career goal making Wednesday's game one he will certainly never forget.
Ballard finished the evening with one goal and was plus +1.
Wednesday night's game certainly had a physical element to it and leading that charge for Phoenix was Tyson Nash. Nash, who is known for his rugged, all-out play lead the Coyotes with four hits in the season opener.
PUT ME IN COACH
Just as had had for the last five preseason games, Coyotes defenseman David Tanabe let all Phoenix skaters in ice time with 23:44.
The Coyotes will now travel to Los Angeles, California where they will face the Kings at The Staples Center on Thursday night. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 PM and can be seen on FSN Arizona and heard on KDUS - 1060AM or KDKB - 93.3 FM.
The Phoenix Coyotes will be holding a viewing party for Thurday's game at Los Angeles. Fans are encouraged to attend the parties are cheer the Coyotes on to victory. For more information on the first two viewing parties of the year, please see the information below.
Thursday, Oct 6 Coyotes Viewing Party
McDuffy's Peoria (83rd Ave south of Bell Rd) is hosting a Coyotes Viewing Party on Thursday, October 6th at 7:30pm as the Phoenix Coyotes invade LA to take on the Kings. Join Coyotes In-Arena Host, Torgy and KDKB for a game of hard hitting, action and great prizes. Visit PhoenixCoyotes.com for complete details.