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Bryzgalov shines again as Coyotes blank Avs

by Jerry Brown /
GLENDALE, Ariz. – If Phoenix captain Shane Doan had known all it would take was a stern lecture to turn around the fortunes of the Coyotes, he wouldn't have taken so long to formally address his team.

Five days ago, the Coyotes were embarrassed 6-0 by Vancouver to begin a three-game homestand. It capped an 81-minute sequence when they were outscored 11-0 and their normally stingy defense was leaking like a sieve.

Doan addressed his teammates, saying everyone in the room shared blame and everyone in the room needed to do something about it. And the Coyotes haven't allowed a goal since.

Radim Vrbata scored twice and Scottie Upshall added his team-leading 16th goal of the season to back up Ilya Bryzgalov's second straight shutout – this one a 26-save effort as the Coyotes suffocated the slumping Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Monday at Arena.

For the Coyotes, who shut out Minnesota 1-0 on Saturday, it's the first time they have shut out two straight opponents in seven years – since Brian Boucher set the modern-day NHL record with five consecutive shutouts from Dec. 31- Jan. 9 of the 2003-04 season. And no one saw it coming.

"How do you go from 11-0 to this? It takes everyone," Doan said. "This was a big game, to show it wasn't just one game, that we've responded and we're committed to this. We've proven we can do this, now there are no excuses. Everyone had to be better – goalies, defense, forwards – and when we play like we can, we can be hard to beat."

Bryzgalov recorded his 21st career shutout and his first back-to-back shutouts in the regular season. He set a record himself in the 2006 playoffs with three straight shutouts against Calgary and Colorado. He has made 51 saves over the two games but the Phoenix defense has given him a good look at many of them.

"We're playing a totally different style – a 1-0 style," he said. "We're making the teams earn every shot and every chance. When you take care of your net the way we have the last two games you increase your chances to win.

"Guys are blocking shots and let me see the puck very clearly. It seems like small things but small things make a huge difference."

The win allowed Phoenix to jump from seventh to a tie for fourth in the Western Conference – over idle San Jose and Anaheim and even with Nashville, who lost. The Coyotes are now just two points behind Pacific Division-leading Dallas and head to Texas for a showdown with the Stars on Wednesday night.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, have now lost four straight and six of the last seven. Their normally high-powered offensive – which ranks third in the West with 164 goals – has been shut out in back-to-back games after being blanked only once in the first 51 games.

Craig Anderson made 23 saves but lost his fifth straight start and is now 3-10-1 in his last 14 decisions dating back to Dec. 21. Leading scorers Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny both went the entire game without a shot on goal.

"I really don't understand it and I don't think anyone knows what's going on right now," Duchene said. "It's very discouraging. It's tough to keep our heads up but we have to do it and keep moving forward."

Colorado expects to have forward Peter Forsberg on the ice by this weekend after he signed with the team Sunday, and their offense could use the help. Colorado coach Joe Sacco juggled his lines after two periods and Colorado put up 12 shots but couldn't score.

"When you go, at the time, five periods without a goal, you try to get different guys going and spark something," Sacco said. "We need our top players to be our best players, so I'm not losing patience."

With just one goal in their last 130 minutes of play, the Coyotes needed just 3:07 to get on the board. Ray Whitney chipped the puck away from Ryan O'Byrne on the forecheck and to teammate Martin Hanzal, who found Vrbata racing to the crease for his 12th goal. Vrbata added another in the third on the period, banging home a Whitney rebound on the power play. Vrbata had only one point in his previous seven games.

In between, the Coyotes got some good fortune in the second period.  Doan made a nifty pass to Kyle Turris from behind the net, but Turris whiffed on the shot. But the puck rolled right to Upshall, who pitch-forked the puck over Anderson for his fourth in the last six games.
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