Seeing Ilya Bryzgalov face the Ducks is no longer a novelty. Sunday marked the 22nd start for Bryz against the team that placed him on waivers in Nov. 2007. Statistically, the 30-year-old goalie has had better starts in Anaheim, but the Ducks have rarely looked so frustrated against their former backup goalie.
The biggest reason: Their own goaltending wasn’t so spectacular. Dan Ellis was off, allowing four goals on 21 shots over two periods before giving way to Ray Emery. Emery, making his first start since Feb. 1, 2010, played the entire third period and appeared to be on, stopping all nine shots he faced.
By then it was too late. The Coyotes (36-23-11, 83 points) denied any notions of another third-period comeback by the Ducks (37-37-5, 79 points), and gained a four-point cushion on their rivals with a 5-2 victory.
“They sat back and played a defensive-style game,” Ducks center Todd Marchant said of the third period. “They put the puck around the boards, around the rim quite a bit, chipped it by our defense. We had a tough time in the third sustaining any kind of forecheck. You can point your finger at Bryz. He played really well for them. We put 39 [actually 38] shots on net, a lot of them were point-blank opportunities, and he made some good saves. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a reality of the game.”
As Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said: “The big Russian was key.”
Randy Carlyle wasn’t fond of his team’s start to the game, but the Ducks still managed to score first. Bobby Ryan used a stunning series of moves to draw the defense away from Corey Perry and set up the game’s first goal, a sequence better left to video than words:
With the Ducks trailing 2-1 in the second period, Perry scored again by deflecting a Cam Fowler slapshot past Bryzgalov with 4:14 left in the second period. But Phoenix needed only 61 seconds to retake the lead, on Lauri Korpikoski’s second goal of the game. David Schlemko scored just after a power play ended, with 43 seconds left in the second period, to make it 4-2. Shane Doan scored into an empty net to provide the final score.
Ellis finished with 17 saves in his shortest start as a Duck. More details in tomorrow’s editions.
Some notes and observations:
The Coyotes’ first and third goals, by Taylor Pyatt and Korpikoski, resulted from two similar-looking mistakes by the Ducks. Andreas Lilja fanned on an outlet pass from the defensive zone that Pyatt was able to pick up, then fire past Ellis at 5:44 of the first period. Marchant fanned on an outlet pass from the defensive zone that Korpikoski was able to pick up (make a couple moves) and fire past Ellis at 16:47 of the second period.
The good news about the standings is that the Ducks find themselves right where they began the day: Tenth place, two points out of eighth. The bad news is that they don’t play again until the Blues visit Honda Center on Wednesday and the two teams immediately ahead of them in the standings, Calgary and Nashville, both play Tuesday. The gap between the Ducks and the playoffs could stand at three or four points after that.
This was the last time the two teams will face each other in the regular season. They split the season series down the middle, three wins each.
Carlyle said that two of the goals Ellis allowed — Korpikoski’s first-period goal, and Schlemko’s second-period goal — hit Ryan Getzlaf before fluttering in. Nonetheless, Ellis was pulled from a start for the first time since Nov. 18, 2010. “I didn’t think that he played his strongest — I’ve seen him play stronger games,” Carlyle said. “It just seemed like the pucks found ways to get through him. … I just felt that the way things were going, it was good to give Ray an opportunity to play a period.”
Emery’s return to the NHL was a bit of an adventure. He didn’t see his first shot until 4:31 into the period. Less than a minute later, he let a puck get behind him and only an alert play by Lubomir Visnovsky to sweep the puck away kept the score at 4-2. Less than a minute after that, Emery had to get down in a hurry when a puck did a 180-degree turn off Getzlaf toward the net. After the game, Emery downplayed the completion of his well-documented comeback from a career-threatening injury. “It wasn’t perfect,” he said, “but allowing no goals is good enough.”
Perry’s 35th and 36th goals moved him up to third in the league in that category. He trails only Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos (43) and Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin (37).
After missing the last four games with a laceration on the palm of his right hand, Jason Blake returned to the lineup in his normal spot with Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. He played an even 10 minutes, including 41 seconds on the power play, recording two shots on goal and three hits.
Attendance was announced at 14,326 but the actual number of individuals in the stands was almost certainly lower. Considering the significance of the game, the crowd straddled the border of thin and lousy.
Sheldon Brookbank, Kyle Chipchura and Andy Sutton were the healthy scratches. Sutton hasn’t played since Feb. 19, a stretch of nine straight games.