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Coyotes take another giant step

by Brian Compton
On March 18, the Phoenix Coyotes weren't even among the top eight teams in the Western Conference.

Less than two months later, they are one of its last two teams standing.

With Monday night's 2-1 win against the Nashville Predators at Arena, the Coyotes have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history. Phoenix will face the Los Angeles Kings in Round 3, as those squads will battle in a best-of-seven series to determine who will represent the Western Conference in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

Shane Doan
Right Wing - PHX
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 6
SOG: 35 | +/-: 5
"We've been pretty business-like the whole time, and we're excited for this win," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who appeared in his 50th postseason game Monday night. "It means a lot to our group to keep going. But it's only halfway. We've got to find a way to win four more games and regroup again."

Scoring first was the key in the Phoenix-Nashville semifinal series, as the team that took a 1-0 lead won each of the five games. Nashville finished its postseason by going 5-0 when scoring first and 0-5 when it did not. However, when Colin Wilson scored with 5:59 left in regulation, the Predators at least ended Mike Smith's shutout streak at 162 minutes and 36 seconds.

With Nashville eliminated, only three teams that notched 100 points during the regular season remain -- the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers. One of those teams will see its season end by the weekend. Five teams from the West tallied 100 points or more, though none of them managed to reach the conference final. 

"We had high expectations and we ran into a very good team that played hard and did all the right things to win," Nashville captain Shea Weber said. "The teams play a similar style of hockey. I don't think we did play our style early in the series, they took advantage and we dug ourselves a big hole."

Working overtime -- It's been quite a while since the New York Rangers have won two overtime games in the same series, but Marc Staal changed all of that Monday night when he scored via the power play in New York's 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals.

The Rangers forced another extra session when Brad Richards capitalized on Joel Ward's double-minor high sticking penalty with just 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation. New York won Game 3 in triple overtime on Marian Gaborik's game-winning tally.

Brad Richards
Center - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 10
SOG: 48 | +/-: -1
"Completely different because the triple overtime was kind of a mental thing," Richards said when asked to compare the two overtime games in the series. "This felt like it was a three-period game and we just waited a while to get it done. We felt like we probably deserved a little bit more than being down 2-1 with that much time left, so with the amount of shots and that much zone time, it was good to finally get one."

The last time the Rangers won two overtime games in the same series? You have to go all the way back to 1997, when Esa Tikkanen notched two game-winning goals against the Florida Panthers.

First time for everything -- The Rangers did not have a game-tying, sixth-attacker goal during the regular season. They did score once with the sixth attacker (at Chicago on March 9), but that merely got them within a goal.

The Caps did not allow a game-tying sixth-attacker goal during the regular season. They did allow two 6AGs, one in a game they led by two; the other against Winnipeg on Feb. 9, when the Jets trailed 3-1 late in the game and had a 5-on-3 power play. They made it 6-on-3, scored and tied the game in regulation before having to pull the goaltender. The Jets won in the shootout.

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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