Photos by Norm Hall
Curtis Joseph did his best at keeping the Phoenix Coyotes within striking distance long enough for his teammates to repay him the favor.
Mike Johnson scored two goals and the Coyotes rallied for four goals in the third period to defeat the struggling Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 for their third straight win at Glendale Arena.
"We just realized that the effort we were giving in the first two periods wasn't there," said Johnson. "We all knew that we needed to turn it up and we did. It was a great period for us and a great win."
Atlanta held a 23-10 advantage in shots on net, but Joseph - as he's done in the past - kept Phoenix in the game with remarkable saves from point blank range. Joseph finished with 27 saves for the Coyotes, who out-shot the Thrashers 21-6 in the third period.
"We all realized (Joseph) has held us in enough games and we realized that we're not playing our best, but we knew the game was there to win," said defenseman Derek Morris. "(Shane) Doan and some guys gave a speech and told us that the game is there and we have to go out and win it. We're not going to play our best games every night, but it's nice to come in after a 2-1 (deficit) and find a way to win."
Paul Mara, Boyd Devereaux and Mike Comrie also scored for the Coyotes, who scored three goals in the first 3:56 of the third period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
"When we get pucks and people to the net, that makes a huge difference," said Doan. "We weren't doing that in the first two periods, we came out in the third and simplified the game and because of that we got the win."
Johnson scored the go-ahead goal at 4:17 mark of the third period when he beat the sprawling Atlanta goaltender Michael Garnett to score for the fourth time in the last two games. Cycling the puck behind the net, Ladislav Nagy connected with Johnson on a cross-ice pass to notch his ninth goal of the season.
"We went for a different kind of look on the face off," said Johnson. "(Nagy) made a great play going around the net made a made great pass and I just shot it upstairs. We're feeding off each other and pucks are going in for me right now."
For the first time this season, the Coyotes are three games above the .500 mark (15-12-2).
"We're not there yet, but we're getting better," said Doan. "What we need is to learn how to play a full 60 minute hockey game. The first period should be just as important as the third period for us."
WHEELER AND PORTER SELECTED
USA Hockey announced that Coyotes prospects Blake Wheeler and Kevin Porter were among 22 players named to the 2006 United Stations National Junior Team. The squad will compete at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna, British Columbia from Dec. 26 to Jan. 05, 2006.
"These selections confirm the positive and ongoing development of our two prospects," said Phoenix general manager Mike Barnett. "The World Juniors will afford them the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in a world-class showcase event."
Phoenix will embark on a brief two-game Eastern Conference road-trip that will begin on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Bruins (3 p.m.), and end on Tuesday night in Montreal (5:30 p.m.)
NEXT HOME GAME
The Coyotes next home game will take place on Thursday, December 15 when the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning make their only appearance at Glendale Arena this season. The game can will be available in high-definition through FSN HD and can also be seen on FSN Arizona. Radio broadcasts are available through KDUS - 1060 AM and KDKB - 93.3 FM or through phoenixcoyotes.com by clicking on the "Listen Live" link in the Game Day section.