Their blue line was short on experience and relying on youth, partly due to injury but also somewhat by design. With veterans Derek Morris and Zbynek Michalek banged up and Rusty Klesla a healthy scratch, the Coyotes called on 20-year-old Connor Murphy to make his NHL debut and also enlisted David Rundblad to round out the defense. But no matter what position the revolving door has sat at this season, the Coyotes’ play hasn’t dropped off. Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was no different as the Coyotes corralled a 6-3 win in front of 12,562 at Jobing.com Arena to remain undefeated in regulation on home ice (9-0-1) and enter a four-day break on a high. “We went young tonight,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We tried to go quicker and move the puck better. That’s where we are.” Four players had multi-point efforts, and Murphy scored his first career goal as the defense had a hand in two goals. Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson were the veterans of the crew with 631 combined regular-season games of experience entering play. The other four had 264. But the injection of youth only seemed to suit the Coyotes. “I thought everybody contributed tonight,” Tippett said. “Obviously everybody was happy for Connor Murphy getting his first goal. He’s such a nice kid. It’s a big thrill for him.” On their first power play opportunity, defenseman Michael Stone accepted a pass from center Mike Ribeiro and Stone’s one-timer breezed past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop at 15:58 of the first period. It was Stone’s sixth goal of the season – a career-high and tops among the Coyotes blue line – and he’s now scored three times in his last two games. “I’ve always been kind of an offensive player,” Stone said. “I’ve been known to shoot the puck pretty hard, so it’s kind of what I’ve been doing. I don’t have any assists, so I’ve got to work on that aspect of my game. But I’m getting chances to shoot, and they’re going in. I’m just getting some good puck luck right now.” A brief 57 seconds later, the Coyotes went up 2-0 on a fluky goal from center Martin Hanzal, who was battling for a puck along the boards and sent it toward the net as he was falling. The puck shot off Bishop’s left skate and in. It was an impressive period for the Coyotes, who outshot the Lightning 11-4. Before this game, the Lightning had allowed only six first-period goals all season. The scoring continued in the second. With the Coyotes on a 5-on-3 power play, Ribeiro cashed in on a loose puck in the crease at 1:48 for his sixth of the season to make it 3-0. Bishop left the game after that with the Lightning calling on Anders Lindback to take over. The Coyotes finished 2-for-3 on the power play, solving a Lightning penalty kill that had killed 44 of its previous 46 penalties. “I liked what we did,” Tippett said. “We managed the puck very well. We got a couple power play goals with some good traffic in front. We got a break on Hanzal’s goal but that being said, we only gave up four shots and really limited them in a lot of areas. That was the start we were looking for.” The Lightning didn’t reach double-digits in shots until 12:45 of the second, but they ended goalie Mike Smith’s shutout bid – he’s still searching for his first –at 16:19 when winger Richard Panik went glove-side on Smith seconds after a Tampa Bay power play expired. Forty-six seconds later Murphy scored his first with a point shot to put the Coyotes up 4-1 with Hanzal planted in front of the crease.
Coyotes cruise past the Lightning, 6-3
Arizona Republic | Nov 17