On Thursday night, the Phoenix Coyotes dropped a 3-2 decision at the hands of their Pacific Division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. Despite the outcome, the Coyotes battled hard and demonstrated incredible patience as they stayed out of penalty trouble for much of the game and continually generated offensive attacks that pushed Los Angeles to the limit.
The Coyotes showed their offensive ability early in the game as Krystofer Kolanos scored his first goal of the season at 10:38 of the opening period. Kolanos, who was set up on the right side of the Kings net, took a pass from Brett Hull along the sideboards and fired a shot between the goal post and the right leg pad of Los Angeles netminder Jason Labarbera for the 1-0 lead.
But with 15:58 gone in the first, the Kings would tie the game when Luc Robitaille blasted a slap shot from the right face-off circle, over the glove hand of Phoenix's David LeNeveu to make it a 1-1 game.
In the second period, the Kings mounted an offensive attack of their own which led to their second goal of the game. During a tripping penalty to Phoenix defenseman Paul Mara, Kings superstar Pavol Demitra sent a shot to the net from just inside the blue line. LeNeveu made the initial stop on Demitra's shot, but the Kings' Alexander Frolov was left alone at the top of the crease and he quickly tucked the rebound into the Phoenix goal for a 2-1 lead.
Three minutes later, while on another power play, Demitra struck again, as he drove to the front of the net, caught LeNeveu leaning to his right side and slid the puck through the legs of the Coyotes goaltender for a 3-1 Los Angeles lead.
Phoenix would pull to within one at 14:22 of the second period when Oleg Saprykin took a feed from Mike Johnson in the corner and stuffed a shot past Labarbera to make it a 3-2 contest after two periods of play.
In the third period, the Coyotes demonstrated some of their best offensive pressure of the season as they forced the Kings to play the majority of the frame from within their own zone.
Phoenix looked to have tied the game at 3-3 late in the period as a shot from the left side beat Labarbera and went in the net. However, the Kings goal had become dislodged just seconds before the shot, thereby nullifying the Coyotes goal.
Even with the intense offensive pressure, the Coyotes were unable to score the equalizer and time ran out as the Kings skated off with a 3-2 victory.
LENEVEU SOLID IN DEBUT
Phoenix goaltender David LeNeveu made his first regular season NHL start on Thursday and while he didn't record a victory, he did make a number of great saves as he kept the Coyotes within striking distance of Los Angeles.
"I felt pretty calm out there tonight," said LeNeveu. "I made sure that I got a lot of rest last night and I really felt comfortable in the nets."
LeNeveu stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced on Thursday, including 13 in the second period alone.
One of the biggest obstacles for the Coyotes on Thursday night was short bench the team had to deal with, especially in the opening period.
Prior to the start of the game, Phoenix forward Petr Nedved was scratched due to a sore groin, while Fredrik Sjostrom was to take his place in the line up. However, Sjostrom was officially listed as a scratch. Early in the opening period, the officials realized the error and declared Sjostrom ineligible for the game.
The Coyotes found themselves in an even deeper hole when forward Mike Leclerc was sent to the box after dropping the gloves with Los Angeles tough guy Sean Avery with 12:28 left in the period. Both players were given matching majors for fighting, but Leclerc also received a two-minute instigator penalty as well as a 10-minute misconduct. The 17 minutes in penalties sent Leclerc to the Phoenix locker room for the remainder of the opening period.
POWER PLAY PRODUCTION
In Thursday's contest, the Coyotes and the Kings took advantage of power plays as both clubs scored a pair of goals on the man-advantage.
The only goal scored in the game that didn't come on the power play was Robitaille's tally in the first period.
WHEN YOU'RE HOT, YOU'RE HOT
Through the first two games of the 2005-06 season, the Coyotes' Oleg Saprykin has registered two goals and one assist. Saprykin has also showed a preference to being on the power play as both of his goals have come on the man-advantage.
The Coyotes will now return to Glendale for Saturday's home opener against the Minnesota Wild. The game is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. on Saturday night at Glendale Arena. A limited number of tickets for the game remain, so don't wait, get yours on-line by clicking here.