LOS ANGELES - Ilja Bryzgalov's teammates and coaches on the Anaheim Ducks knew he had the talent to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.
Finally getting his chance - with Phoenix - Bryzgalov did not disappoint, making 28 saves in the Coyotes' 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Just hours after meeting his new teammates, Bryzgalov put on his leg pads, catching glove and blocker still in Anaheim's colours - but wore a nondescript white mask - and dazzled in the third shutout of his career.
"I think everybody thought that he could be a No. 1, especially when he had his run in the playoffs two years ago when he was the No. 1 guy on a good team," said Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who scored the only goal on a power play in the second period.
"Obviously, Anaheim was blessed to have two great goaltenders, and now was his time to get a chance somewhere else," Doan said. "You're always trying to find the best goalie available. So if you can get him, you're better off."
The Coyotes claimed Bryzgalov off waivers from the Ducks. He got the news by phone from general manager Don Maloney at his Yorba Linda home, then drove to Staples Center knowing he'd be starting in net.
"When I walked into the locker room, my new teammates were so excited to see me and made me feel like I had always been here," said Bryzgalov, who played his first 69 regular-season NHL games with Anaheim and won a Stanley Cup ring last season as Jean-Sebastien Giguere's backup.
Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky was impressed by how well the 27-year-old Russian played under the circumstances.
"He gets a call, I guess probably two minutes after nine today, saying that we got him - and another call five minutes later from me, saying 'You're going to play at 1 o'clock.' So I knew it was probably going to be a hard day for him and emotional day because 24 hours before he didn't know what team he was going to end up with," Gretzky said.
"We were pretty excited about it because we'd seen him play a lot and we knew he was coming from a really good team and a really good organization," Gretzky added. "The Ducks did him a nice favour to get him a chance to play a lot. He won a championship and learned a lot from a lot of good players. Now he gets an opportunity to make our team better."
All three of Bryzgalov's shutouts have been on the road. He beat San Jose 2-0 with 24 saves on Jan. 26, 2006, and needed just 14 saves to beat Chicago 3-0 on Oct. 26, 2006.
This was the first time the Kings were blanked at Staples Center since April 6, 2006, when they managed only 14 shots at goalie Vesa Toskala in a 5-0 loss to San Jose.
"Obviously, they made a good decision getting him," Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera said. "I'm sure he wanted to play well for a new team. What are you going to do? It's frustrating to lose one of those games."
Bryzgalov's acquisition couldn't have come at a better time for the desperate Coyotes, who were outscored 15-1 over their previous three games - all against the San Jose Sharks - including Monday's 5-0 loss and Thursday's 6-0 defeat. The Phoenix-Winnipeg franchise has never been shut out in three straight games since moving from the WHA to the NHL in 1979.
Doan scored at 11:24 of the second period during a 5-on-3 advantage and ended a goal drought of 202 minutes, 24 seconds - encompassing nine consecutive scoreless periods. He used Michal Handzus and rookie defenceman Jack Johnson as a screen and beat LaBarbera to the glove side with a one-timer from 35 feet after the Kings' goalie stopped the first 18 shots he faced. Doan's fourth goal of the season caromed in off the right post.
Notes: Bryzgalov was 7-2 with a 1.99 goals-against average in 10 career games against Phoenix, including his first career win, a 3-2 overtime decision on March 16, 2003. He faced the Coyotes twice this season in Anaheim, a 1-0 loss on Oct. 25, and a no-decision on Nov. 7 in which he was benched late in the second period after giving up four goals on 18 shots. ... LaBarbera made 37 saves. ... D Nick Boynton returned to the Coyotes' lineup after serving an automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight with San Jose's Steve Bernier during the last five minutes of Monday's 5-0 loss. ... Coyotes C Peter Mueller has no goals in five games since his first career hat trick on Nov. 7 at Anaheim. RW Fredrik Sjostrom has one goal in 11 games since his first NHL hat trick on Oct. 11 at Nashville.