A full two weeks into a playoff push, the Arizona Coyotes are seeing real gains now, moving into postseason eligibility with their fifth victory in seven games on Friday.
That 4-2 triumph came on the road against the Anaheim Ducks, with the two West Division teams set to meet again Sunday in Southern California.
Lane Pederson scored for the Coyotes on Friday in his NHL debut and Phil Kessel added the game-winner with 7:58 remaining, for his team-leading 15th of the season. Kessel, who is tied for the team lead in points at 28, also had an assist.
Johan Larsson had Arizona's first goal of the night in the opening period, his fifth, while Nick Schmaltz added an insurance goal with 3:04 remaining, his ninth. Jordan Gross, who hadn't played since Feb. 2, had a career-best three assists.
It was a night when the Coyotes got production from all corners of the roster.
"We needed hungry guys," said Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, also noting the performance of winger Michael Bunting, who was playing his second game of the season. "I've been wanting to get (Gross) in the lineup for a while. I just decided ‘I'm putting Grosser in,' and he had three assists. And then (Pederson) gets his first goal.
"Things worked out, but honestly, (they provided) a lot of juice. (We were) looking for some juice, and they supplied it for us."
The Coyotes moved into fourth place in the West Division standings after the St. Louis Blues lost to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. The top four teams in each division advance to the playoffs, with another month of regular-season games left to sort it all out.
One team not anticipating the playoffs is the Ducks, who have lost five of their last seven and nine of their last 12.
They already have been playing for a week without No. 1 goaltender John Gibson and center Rickard Rakell, who is tied for the team's points lead at 22. On Friday, captain Ryan Getzlaf left midway through the second period and did not return. All three have upper-body injuries.
The Ducks led twice Friday, taking a 1-0 advantage 16:06 into the game when Alexander Volkov scored in his Anaheim debut. Underutilized with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, he was traded to the Ducks on Wednesday.
The Ducks also had a 2-1 lead at the midway point of the game after Jakob Silfverberg appeared to make a kicking motion to score off a rebound from the boards behind the Coyotes goal. The play was reviewed but not overturned.
That would be the last bit of good fortune for Anaheim, whose 11 victories on the season are better than just one team: the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
"We got off to a pretty slow start in the first and got caught watching them play," Silfverberg said. "But after that, it was a pretty even game. A couple of bounces decided the game. We came out on the wrong end of it. We created enough chances to score more than two goals, that's for sure."
--Field Level Media