Photos by Norm Hall
On Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes fell to the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 in a New Year's Eve battle.
It didn't take long to see that Saturday's contest between the Coyotes and Avalanche was going to be a physical one as Phoenix center Mike Comrie and Colorado's Brett McLean dropped the gloves in the face-off circle as soon as the puck was dropped. The battle saw both players land a series of blows, but Comrie held the obvious upper hand in the battle. Once separated, both men were sent to the box with five-minute majors for their efforts.
At 55 seconds of the first, the Coyotes received the first power play of the game when Colorado forward Andrew Brunette was called for tripping. With the extra attacker, the Coyotes were able to set up in the Avalanche zone and work the puck around the perimeter, but Colorado closed off the shooting lanes as the Coyotes offense stalled and the Avalanche were able to kill off the penalty without consequence.
Phoenix defenseman Keith Ballard made the first trip to the box for the Coyotes at 4:27 of the opening frame when he was called for tripping, unfortunately, Ballard's stay in the box would only last 1:10 as Milan Hejduk was able to stuff a loose puck at the right side of the Coyotes crease, past Curtis Joseph to give the Av's an early 1-0 lead.
As soon as the puck was dropped following Hejduk's goal, Phoenix's Tim Jackman and Colorado's Brad May dropped the gloves in the neutral zone for their own battle. This heavyweight bout failed to live up to expectations as Jackman was tripped up early, giving the officials a chance to break-up the fight before much could be settled.
The Coyotes nearly tied the game with 13:08 left to play in the period when Ladislav Nagy blasted a shot from the top of the left face-off circle in the Colorado zone that beat netminder Peter Budaj and rang off the post. From there, Budaj was able to lie on his back and cover the puck before an opportunistic Shane Doan could get the rebound.
With just over nine minutes left in the first, Doan and Nagy made a break for the Colorado goal on a two-on-one rush, but Nagy's shot from the right side of the crease was stopped by Budaj and the puck was cleared out of harm's way by the Avalanche defensemen.
Phoenix took another shot at the penalty kill at 11:58 of the frame when defenseman Zbynek Michalek was called for tripping. This time the Coyotes penalty killers made no mistake as they followed the lead of defenseman Paul Mara and kept the Colorado attack off balance enough for Joseph to get a good look at the action in front of him and position himself where he could easily to the shots that made their way through to the net until Michalek was release from the box.
Phoenix was handed a late power play when Ladislav Nagy was tripped by Colorado's Bob Boughner with just 1:37 to play in the period, but the Coyotes offense wouldn't be able to register a shot on goal before the end of the period, which saw the Avalanche holding a 1-0 lead.
Through the first 2:30 of the second period, the Coyotes brought on an impressive offensive attack on the Avalanche that saw Phoenix put four high quality shots on net. But Budaj was coming up big for Colorado by keeping the puck out of the net and maintaining the one-goal lead.
Phoenix kept the pressure on the Av's for another two minutes, putting three more shots on goal as they tried to find a way past Budaj.
The Avalanche went back on the power play at 9:26 of the second when Phoenix center Mike Ricci was called for tripping. Colorado's only real good chance on the ensuing man-advantage came with just five seconds left as a shot from the point was deflected in front of Joseph, causing the Coyotes goaltender to drop to his knees to make the save and stop play.
Phoenix would kill off the penalty to Ricci, but five seconds after he returned to the ice, Colorado's Ian Laperriere would tip a pass from Brett McLean past the glove hand of Joseph to give the Avalanche 2-0 lead.
The Coyotes refused to give up and with 7:44 left in the second, Phoenix finally made their way past Budaj and on to the score sheet when Mike Johnson's blast form just inside the blue line was tipped at the right side of the net be a charging Denis Gauthier and into the Colorado net, cutting the lead to 2-1.
With 4:58 to play in the second, Colorado's Karlis Skrastins was whistled for hooking, bringing the Coyotes power play back onto the ice. Once again, the Avalanche allowed the Coyotes to set up in the offensive zone but closed off shooting lanes, thereby protecting Budaj from having to stop many high-percentage shots until the penalty expired.
The final minutes of the period would run out with any further scoring, sending the Coyotes to their locker room after 40 minutes of play, trailing 2-1.
At 18:51 of the final period, the Coyotes had to call upon their penalty killing unit again as Oleg Saprykin was sent to the box for hooking. The Colorado power play would last just 24 seconds as Rob Blake's slap shot from the point was tipped in front by Pierre Turgeon and put past Joseph, giving the Avalanche back the two-goals with a 3-1 lead.
Two minutes later at 16:16 of the third, Colorado made it a 4-1 game when Phoenix failed to keep tabs on Laperriere and he swatted a puck from his knees at the top of the crease past a sprawling Joseph who was unable to get back into position after making a save at the right side of the net.
Ladislav Nagy tried to cut the deficit in half at the 15-minute mark when he blasted a shot from the left face-off circle onto the Colorado goal that trickled through the legs of Budaj and rolled just wide of the net, protecting the Av's three-goal advantage.
With 8:15 left in the third, the Coyotes went on the power play when Colorado's Bob Boughner was called for tripping. Phoenix wouldn't let the opportunity pass them by as Geoff Sanderson took a feed from Mike Johnson in the corner at 13:33 of the third and snapped a shot past Budaj from the slot to cut Colorado's lead to 4-2.
With 3:25 left in regulation, the Avalanche added to their lead when Andrew Brunette took a pass from Joe Sakic and tucked the puck around the out-stretched left leg of Joseph and into the goal to make it a 5-2 contest.
The Coyotes were handed another power play with just under two-minutes to play in the game when Avalanche forward Dan Hinote was sent to the box for high sticking. Phoenix would generate some scoring chances in the closing moments of the game, but eventually, time would run out and the Coyotes would take their third loss against the Av's this season, this time by a score of 5-2.