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On This Day [April 20]: Playoff Hockey in Phoenix

The Coyotes earn first-ever playoff win when hosting first postseason game in team history on April 20, 1997

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

On this day in 1997, the Coyotes hosted their first playoff game and earned their first playoff victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

A capacity crowd of 16,210 packed America West Arena in a sea of white, participating in the launch of the team's traditional 'whiteout' postseason promotion as the Coyotes halved a 2-0 series deficit with a 4-1 win.


The inaugural Coyotes club produced a 38-37-7 record, finishing the 1996-97 campaign in third place in the Central Division, clinching their first-ever playoff berth on April 4, 1997.

It all led to that aformentioned first postseason win - an undeniable highlight of the team's inception.

The sight was incredible. Arizona Republic reporter Bob McManaman led with this: "Was that what heaven looks like?

"If it wasn't, it had to be pretty close."

"There was electricity in the air everywhere you looked," Jeremy Roenick said. "It was almost like you had tears of joy in your eyes at the beginning of the game to see everybody really standing behind us."

Indeed, that energy still is felt through archived footage of the game. The electricity helped produce a Coyotes goal just 78 seconds in the game, when Darrin Shannon scored the team's first home-playoff goal with a front-net redirect.

The Coyotes scored three times in the opening period, the third coming on Keith Tkachuk's powerful pass and drive to inside position, scoring his third goal of the series. The goal extended his goal-scoring streak to five games. 

Tkachuk led the NHL in goals that season (52), becoming the first American-born player in league history to do so.

Mike Gartner finished the scoring with a slap shot from the left circle with 4:32 left in the game.

Nikolai Khabibulin, starting his 45th consecutive game, made 30 saves.

"He's been our best player, has been all year," Tkachuk said. "We've been riding on his back all year, and he's done the job."

Cliff Ronning, who finished the night with a team-high three assists, added: "It's no secret that goaltending is the key if a team is going to be successful in the playoffs. It's the most important position on the ice. Our guy played better than their guy and we won."

"It was unreal," Roenick said. "Every single guy in this locker room is as proud as they can be to be a Phoenix Coyote today."

FULL GAME: Coyotes - Mighty Ducks (Game 3 - WCQF | 4/20/97)

Lead Photo Credit: [Screengrab] NHL on FOX 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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