The Phoenix Coyotes were planning on flying home after Sunday's contest in Detroit. After capturing the pivotal Game 6, they'll be bringing the Red Wings with them.
The Coyotes extended their Cinderella season at least one more game with a decisive 5-2 win at Joe Louis Arena. And while they may have entered this series as the higher seed, they continue to surprise with a level of resiliency and grit that carries them a lot further than their talent.
Looking to close out the series at home, the Wings staged an early assault, launching 14 shots that included at least seven quality scoring chances. But it was Phoenix that seized the momentum by capitalizing on opportunities, and for the first time in the series, their special teams led the way, creating four of their five goals.
And it was a pair of ex-Red Wings,
Schneider, who dressed for just the second time in the series, extended the lead to 2-0 early in the middle frame when his seeing-eye slapper found its way through a crowd and past Detroit keeper
Lang's moment came later that period when his cross-ice pass set
Their veteran poise was an obvious plus for the unit.
"The old-timers, those guys have played on a few power plays in their life," Coyotes coach
The Yotes also got a monster performance out of
That three-goal effort is likely to garner most of the postgame attention, but the Coyotes' penalty kill might have been even more impactful. The unit, led by a sparkling performance from
Just getting out of that mess unscathed might have done the trick, but
The Wings had allowed only one shortie all season long. That was a lousy time to cough up No. 2.
Afterward, Detroit coach
Privately, though, he has to be concerned. The Coyotes took a physical pounding in the first period but regained their composure after that early glitch and executed their assignments expertly. They had a goaltender who had no trouble seeing the puck and group of forwards that established their presence in the trenches. That's a pretty sweet formula right there.
Will it carry over? Both teams go into Game 7 with something to lose, but there's a sense about these Coyotes that they're playing with house money. Not so much that they're happy just to be there, but they're a team that senses this is their opportunity. The Wings had theirs. Phoenix waltzed into the den of the two-time defending conference champs and snatched it away. And now they get to go home to take advantage of it.
"I said before the series that home ice is only good if you get down to Game 7," Tippett reminded reporters. "The compete level won't change whether you're home or on the road, but if you get to Game 7, I'd sure rather play it in front of our home fans.
"We're having fun playing. It'll be a crazy atmosphere, fun for everybody."
Well, more fun for one team than the other. And the way the Coyotes competed Sunday, it looks like it could be their party.