The Phoenix Coyotes were at their best when they were up or down a skater, or two, and that gave them a chance to survive for at least one more game.
Phoenix scored its first three goals on special teams and Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves in a 5-2 win over host Detroit yesterday that forced Game 7 in the first-round series.
“They won the special teams battle,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That sucked the life out of our team.’’
Phoenix will host the deciding game tomorrow night.
“Any time you can play in a Game 7, it’s a game you’ll remember,’’ Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Detroit would love to forget how yesterday’s game started.
The Coyotes were called for three penalties in the first 4:42 — including a pair that put them down two skaters for 1:09 — but they were the only team to score in the opening period.
Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart nonchalantly carried the puck out of his end, Lauri Korpikoski snatched it and scored shorthanded 4:10 in to spark the win.
Mathieu Schneider snapped the Coyotes’ 0-for-19 skid on the power play early in the second for a 2-0 lead, and Radim Vrbata scored with the man advantage midway through the period to restore the two-goal edge.
“I don’t want to say we solved it,’’ Schneider said. “It worked for tonight.’’
Wojtek Wolski’s even-strength goal put Phoenix ahead, 4-1, late in the second.
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard made 24 saves, but he gave up at least four goals for the third time in the series.
A finalist for the Calder Trophy, Howard is about to play in his first win-or-go-home game in the NHL. “No, I’m not concerned about him at all,’’ Babcock said.
The Coyotes went ahead, 1-0, on their first shot yesterday and beat Howard four more times.
“They got lucky,’’ Howard said. “We hit a couple posts.’’
The Red Wings also often hit Bryzgalov’s stick, skates, and pads, including 10 times in the first 10 minutes. “Bryz was excellent,’’ Tippett said. “That’s what he’s done for us all year.’’
Babcock bristled at the notion that the Coyotes won’t have pressure to win in what has already been a successful season.
“They’ve got something to lose,’’ Babcock said. “Both teams do.’’
Canucks 4, Kings 2 — Daniel Sedin scored the tiebreaking goal with 2:03 to play, and visiting Vancouver rallied from a third-period deficit to finish off its first-round series against Los Angeles with a victory in Game 6.
Roberto Luongo made 30 saves while keeping Vancouver close in its third straight victory, and Kevin Bieksa tied it early in the third period for the third-seeded Canucks.
Sedin then skated in to collect a loose puck and snapped a shot over goalie Jonathan Quick, sending the Canucks to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
Drew Doughty and Alexander Frolov scored for the sixth-seeded Kings. Steve Bernier scored an early goal for Vancouver, and Alex Burrows notched his first of the postseason into an empty net with 1:07 left.