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Coyotes pay price for getting out of their comfort zone

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. – When Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov took his place between the pipes Friday night, he brought a tidy career postseason goals-against average of 1.70 and a .938 save percentage with him.

By the end of the night, both those numbers had a big Red line run through them – namely, the Detroit line of Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi.

The trio combined for five goals, eight points and one nightmare evening for the Coyotes star netminder, who gave up six goals for the first time all season in a 7-4 loss to Detroit in Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Phoenix not only lost a game and its home-ice advantage, the Coyotes lost their identity as a disciplined team that rarely plays outside its comfort zone.

The Coyotes led three different times in the second period – 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 – but were reeled in each time as the Red Wings, who hadn't scored since the first period of Game 1, suddenly found their groove and roughed up Phoenix.

"They are an explosive team. They have talent and they are going to make plays," Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "But the staple of our game is getting the puck in there and grinding. We scored a few goals and had a little success and suddenly we're trying things when we probably shouldn't."

Each side played fast and loose with its system. In a span of 3:58, the teams combined for five goals – the third-fastest span in NHL playoff history.

"Both teams were running around a little too much," said Zetterberg, who registered his first playoff hat trick and eighth multi-goal game in the postseason. "Players got out of position and you wind up with a lot of odd-man rushes and a lot of goals scored. But think in the third we kept our teamwork better and made some good plays."

But even while the Coyotes were keeping pace on the scoreboard, they weren't used to or confident in the tempo.

"Any time we get into a 6-4 or 7-4 game … that's not what we want," Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said. "It was crazy there for a little bit. We got some goals, but if they're scoring like that … we like to play close games. We need to keep it tight and fix our mistakes."

Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard wasn't having too much fun on his end either before settling down in the third period.

"It's kind of hard to keep these two teams off the score sheet," he said. "They are guys who can skate, make some plays and definitely shoot the puck on both sides. "You get a game like this once in awhile, and then it comes down to making one more save than the other guy."

The "other guy" didn't have much to offer afterward. "We made too many mistakes tonight. I don't know what else I can say," Bryzgalov said.

The Coyotes allowed seven goals only once all season – a 7-2 loss to Buffalo on Jan. 18. They responded by winning seven of the next eight games, allowing two goals or less in six of them.

"We know better," Jovanovski said. "But it's going to be a long series and this will teach us what happens when we play with fire."

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