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game recap

Coyotes defeat Lightning, end four-game losing streak

Arizona forward Christian Fischer scores game-winner in NHL debut

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Christian Fischer, the seventh Arizona Coyotes player to make his NHL debut this season, scored what proved to be the game-winner during a three-goal surge late in the second period of a 5-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Gila River Arena on Saturday.

"I didn't think about scoring today. I just thought about playing. That was enough," said Fischer, who had 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 games with Tucson of the American Hockey League. "When I saw it go in, I was so filled with emotion, I just threw up my hands and hugged the guys who gave the puck to me as quick as I could."

Mike Smith made 45 saves and Radim Vrbata scored a goal and tied a career-high with four points to help Arizona (14-26-6) end a four-game losing streak. The Coyotes are 3-12-1 in their past 16 games.

 

WATCH: All Lightning vs. Coyotes highlights 

 

The line of Vrbata, Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder combined for 10 points. Arizona chased Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop with five goals on 17 shots.

"There not a lot to look at [against the 6-foot-7 Bishop] and we got a couple of goals that usually doesn't happen against him," Vrbata said. "Our line moved the puck well and supported it, so you can keep your speed so it looks like you are playing fast. You are on the puck and you don't have to chase it and forecheck all the time."

Hanzal and Rieder each scored a goal and two assists and Michael Stone scored his first goal in 34 games for Arizona, which is 5-0-2 this season when Smith makes 40 or more saves.

Cedric Paquette, Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay (21-22-5), which is 2-7-1 in its past 10 games.

"It just wasn't enough from the start of the game which is really disappointing," Lightning forward Brian Boyle said. "We have to be great every night; good isn't even good enough, and we were neither of those things. We had good energy, but the focus wasn't where it needed to be and that's a hard one to swallow."

Video: TBL@ARI: Paquette chips in a rebound from his knees

Andrei Vasilevskiy made six saves in relief of Bishop for the Lightning, who fell behind the Buffalo Sabres into last place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay has reached the Eastern Conference Final in each of the past two seasons.

"It's disgraceful," Boyle said. "We have ourselves to blame … we played a young team that we didn't respect, they just came out and stomped us."

Rieder and Vrbata scored 2:14 apart in the first period to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead, each beating Bishop to the short side from tough angles.  

Paquette lunged after a Gabriel Dumont rebound and put the bouncing puck up and over Smith at 18:39 to make it 2-1.

But Stone swept in a rebound just as a 5-on-3 power play was ending at 14:56 of the second and Fischer and Hanzal followed to make it 5-1 before the Lightning responded with two third-period goals.

 

Goal of the game

He had very little to work with from a sharp angle, but Rieder found enough room underneath Bishop's arm and put the puck off the far post to give Arizona the early lead.

Video: TBL@ARI: Rieder finishes a give-and-go with Vrbata

 

Save of the game

Smith made a sprawling save to rob Boyle with his blocker three minutes into the third period to make sure the Lightning's late rally wouldn't be enough.

 

Unsung performance of the game

The Coyotes power play killed off a four-minute roughing penalty against Peter Holland midway through the second period. Stone scored on a 5-on-3 power play less than three minutes later.

 

Highlight of the game

Fischer took only one shot all night, but he made it count when he finished off nice passes from Alexander Burmistrov and Jamie McGinn for his first NHL goal.

Video: TBL@ARI: Fischer drives the net, pots first NHL goal

 

They said it

"They didn't have many shots, but everything was Grade A [chances] and breakaways where we lost coverage, and that is unacceptable. We know our playoff lives are on the line and we can't have efforts like this." -- Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman

 

Need to know

Fischer is the 11th player in Coyotes history to score in his NHL debut. … Vrbata scored his 147th goal as a Coyote to pass Teemu Selanne for 10th place on the all-time Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets list.

 

What's next

Lightning: At the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, SUN, NHL.TV)

Coyotes: Host the Florida Panthers on Monday (9 p.m. ET; FS-A, FS-F, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Vrbata's huge game, Smith power Coyotes past Bolts

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