DETROIT – The Phoenix Coyotes have thrived in the face of adversity all season.
They did it again Sunday in Game 3 against the Detroit Red Wings.
Overcoming the loss of captain Shane Doan and another key player, Petr Prucha and Radim Vrbata scored midway through the third period to lift the Coyotes to a 4-2 victory and a 2-1 series lead.
“From where we’ve come from, a couple injuries are not going to deter us,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “Shane is a great player, he’s our leader, but we recognized we had a game to play.”
Phoenix scratched forward Vernon Fiddler, who got hit in the lip by a stick in Game 2, and lost Doan on his first shift of the second period when he appeared to have an upper-body injury after running into the endboards.
“They just got better,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “With no Fiddler and no Doan, they had the puck more than we did.”
The Coyotes have overcome a series of off-the-ice setbacks, starting with their previous owner taking the franchise into bankruptcy last year leading to the NHL buying the team in November. Wayne Gretzky resigned as coach nine days before the opener and was replaced by Tippett on the bench.
“If you look back from the start of the year, it was part of our identity that you can overcome anything,” Tippett said.
Detroit overcame the loss of players who combined to score 88 goals last season – when it was a win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions – and a slew of injuries to extend the longest playoff streak in sports with a 19th straight appearance in the post-season.
The fifth-seeded Red Wings were the hottest team in the NHL entering the playoffs, but they’re having trouble with the fourth-seeded Coyotes, who were almost as successful after the Olympic break.
“It’s interesting how the perception from you people is we’re supposed to just crush them,” Babcock bristled to reporters. “They’re a good team, too.”
Detroit will host Game 4 on Tuesday night, needing a win to avoid being on the brink of elimination.
The Red Wings will have to start and finish much better than they did Sunday.
Phoenix defenceman Sami Lepisto scored 29 seconds into the game, the fastest playoff goal in franchise history, and Prucha and Vrbata scored 3:22 apart in the middle of the third period.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves for the Coyotes, whose confidence is building by the day against a team that was picked by some as a Stanley Cup contender a week ago.
“We believe in ourselves,” Bryzgalov said. “I’m not worried about opinions from outside.”
Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula made it 1-all late in the first period and Johan Franzen also scored for the Red Wings, who got average goaltending from Jimmy Howard, who made 29 saves.
“I just have to refocus and get out there and have a good practice,” Howard said.
The Coyotes quickly quieted a fired-up crowd at Joe Louis Arena and might’ve rattled Howard when Lepisto got the third shot of the game past Howard.
Filppula’s power-play goal got the fans back into it at the 14:42 mark of the first period, but the Red Wings failed to score in the second period and they allowed Wojtek Wolski to score with 32 seconds left in the second.
Phoenix looked faster than Detroit at times, beating veterans such as defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom to the front of the net and getting to pucks in the corners quicker.
“When you turn over pucks, you look like you have no energy,” Babcock said.
The Red Wings had what appeared to be two goals waved off, including one with 3:02 by Todd Bertuzzi, who was puzzled by an official’s explanation.
“He just said you can’t push the goaltender,” Bertuzzi recalled. “It was news to me.”
It didn’t give Babcock an excuse.
“That had nothing to do with the game,” he said. “They beat us.”
NOTES: Doan, whose status will be updated publicly Monday after an evaluation, had a goal and an assist during the first two games and led the Coyotes with 55 points during the regular season. … Two octopi were thrown on the ice during the national anthem, a playoff tradition in Detroit. Building manager Al Sobotka let one of them slip out of his hand as he twirled it in what was perhaps a bad omen. … Wolski has scored in each game against Detroit. … Detroit F Tomas Holmstrom played in his 155th game, moving past Gordie Howe for seventh place on the post-season games list for the Red Wings. … Lepisto’s goal beat the previous franchise record for the fastest goal in a playoff game. Randy Carlyle scored 53 seconds into a game for Winnipeg against Edmonton on April 25, 1985. … The Coyotes played on NBC for the first time and the Red Wings were on the network for the fifth time this season alone.