ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Coyotes came out of their eight-day All-Star break knowing the time to make a move was now. There was no time left to stammer, little room left for error.
Now, there is no wiggle room left. That hard surface against their back is a wall.
Patrick Kjellberg, Stanislav Chistov and Niclas Havelid scored for Anaheim and teammate Jason Krog assisted on all three goals as the streaking Mighty Ducks put the Coyotes further in their rearview mirror with a 3-2 win Friday night at the Arrowhead Pond.
Coming out of a crucial two-game California road trip empty-handed, Phoenix now sits 10 points behind Anaheim and the final Western Conference playoff spot with only 29 games left to play. And the Coyotes’ next two games are against two of the top three teams in the NHL — Dallas tonight at America West Arena and Wednesday at home against New Jersey.
Mathematically, of course, Phoenix is still alive. Realistically, the numbers just aren't adding up.
All-Star goalie Sean Burke should be back for the Devils game. So will defenseman Danny Markov and winger Brian Savage. But is it too late to matter?
Playing like a team fighting for its life, Phoenix battled Anaheim to a first-period draw and then jumped in front on an early second-period power play. With ex-Coyote Keith Carney in the penalty box for delay of game, rookie Ramzi Abid got in the way of a Teppo Numminen shot from the point and slid the puck behind goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Mike Johnson, who was prone in the crease, swept the puck over the line at 2:17 for his team-leading 15th goal and the Coyotes had something to work with.
But not for long. Kjellberg pitch-forked a centering pass from Krog over Phoenix goalie Zac Bierk (31 saves) at 5:56 to tie it. Then suddenly, the Coyotes’ neutral zone parted like the Red Sea and the Ducks came paddling through untouched to capitalize.
Just two seconds after Scott Pellerin left the Phoenix box for a kneeing penalty, Chistov skated to the open slot and was waiting for Mike LeClerc's pass. Chistov let go of a shot that Bierk touched but couldn't stop at 9:54 and the Ducks never trailed again.
Less than five minutes later, after a couple of nice saves by Bierk, Phoenix captain Teppo Numminen (minus-3) was caught up ice and Anaheim turned it into a two-on-one rush, with Samuel Pahlsson feeding Niclas Havelid for the easy wrister to give Anaheim two goals and force the Coyotes to go into desperation mode.
Paul Ranheim cut the lead in half with 9:47 left to play, collecting his first point in 14 games as a Coyote when he blasted a Pellerin feed by Giguere. Phoenix had other chances. Deron Quint hit the post with a first-period bomb, and Shane Doan took off some more paint with seven minutes left in regulation. Ladislav Nagy, Abid and Tony Amonte were robbed in the second by Giguere — who made 31 saves and has allowed just nine goals in his last six games against Phoenix (1.5 per game).