- Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the second period, the Phoenix Coyotes
were looking for a spark to put them over the top against the Toronto Maple Leafs
Mike Brown's elbow to the face of Ed Jovanovski not only provided a spark, it lit a fuse.
Upset by the unpenalized hit that put Jovanovski out of the game, the Coyotes kept their cool and retaliated with offense, scoring three times on their first five shots of the third period and snapping Toronto's four-game winning streak with a 5-1 romp Thursday night.
Rookie goalie James Reimer had won three straight starts, but allowed four goals on just 20 shots. Shane Doan, Taylor Pyatt and Lauri Korpikoski each scored their 11th goal of the year during the first 9:43 of the third period for Phoenix, which has won three straight and jumped over both Anaheim and Nashville into fourth place in the Western Conference.
Phoenix hasn't lost in regulation in 2011, going 5-0-2 in seven games and collecting 12 of 14 points. But while the win was big, the concern after the game was the hit on Jovanovski.
Replays showed Brown caught Jovanovski in the face with an elbow, sending him to the ice. Jovanovski writhed on the ice in pain for a minute, then got up and went after Brown before leaving the ice. He did not return for the third period, and the Coyotes said he suffered a lower body injury in addition to the hit to the head.
Brown was not penalized -- though the Coyotes felt the play fell into the league's new edict against blindside hits.
"We need a guy like Jovo on the ice, and for a guy to take a run at him like that was just uncalled for," said defenseman Keith Yandle, who capped the four-goal third period by scoring an empty-netter with 41 seconds left. "He's taking out one of our best players and he's a guy who's in and out of the lineup."
Brown, playing for the first time since shattering his index finger on Nov. 30, admitted the hit was bad but said he wasn't trying to injure Jovanovski.
"They were saying there was no reason to be hitting him there," he said. "But this is the game of hockey. I play that style of game, but I obviously don't mean to hurt anybody or make any bad hits, elbow or shoulder. In the heat of the moment I went for the hit and went in with my shoulder.
"If he wasn't reaching for the puck, his head wouldn't have gone forward. I was just going for a clean hit. The refs made a good call. They didn't call it for a reason."
Doan, who was hit with a three-game suspension for a blindside hit on Anaheim's Dan Sexton in October, said the video looked bad but didn't want to comment further. "I might be the wrong person to talk to … I got it once and it cost me three games. They have their criteria and we'll see. When we saw the replay, it brought a pretty good rise out of the group."
The Coyotes hadn't scored a power-play goal in seven games, while Toronto hadn't allowed a power-play goal in five games. It took just 2:05 of the game for both those streaks to end, when Radim Vrbata swept in a pretty Ray Whitney feed just 13 seconds into Dion Phaneuf's penalty.
After the Brown hit a flurry of minor penalties gave Phoenix a power-play chance early in the third, and Doan needed just four seconds of power-play time to cash in again. His rocket from the left circle beat Reimer at 1:39 to double Phoenix's lead. Pyatt pounded home Yandle's second assist of the night at 4:52 and Korpikoski scored at 9:43 to turn the game into a blowout.
The Maple Leafs were going for their first four-game road sweep since 2000, but Ilya Bryzgalov shut down a Toronto offense that had scored 22 times in the last four games until Colby Armstrong ruined his shutout bid with 3:52 left.
Defenseman Michal Rozsival arrived in Arizona on Thursday morning and skated - by himself - after Toronto's morning skate. Rozsival, acquired Monday from the Rangers for forward Wojtek Wolski, has been out with a pulled muscle near his rib cage, but Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said he's hoping the veteran will be ready for Saturday's home game with Anaheim.
Jean Sebastien-Giguere dressed as the backup or the first time since going down with a groin pull on Dec. 16. The Leafs were without wingers Fredrik Sjostrom (Charley horse) and Kris Versteeg (upper body) and had to play defenseman Brett Lebda at a forward spot.