Coyotes Slip Past Kings

Keith Tkachuk's worst critic usually has been himself. Thursday night, he stopped beating himself up long enough to score his first game-winning goal of the season.

Tkachuk's recent slump has perplexed coach Bob Francis. But the All-Star left wing's clutch goal for the Phoenix Coyotes in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings helped to lift an underlying current of tension that existed between player and coach.

"We had a good talk yesterday on the ice and I was relieved that he actually talked to me, so that made me feel better," Tkachuk said.

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  • "He just told me to relax and stop putting pressure on myself because that's what I've been doing ever since I got into the league. I strive to be the best."

    Tkachuk scored from the slot with 13:53 to play. He one-timed a pass from Jeremy Roenick and beat Jamie Storr to the glove side with a 25-footer for his sixth goal on 65 shots.

    "I just got into a position where Jeremy always finds me, in the high slot, and he gave me a great pass. All I had to do was wind up and put it in."

    The puck originally was heading to the left point, where Phoenix defenseman Keith Carney was anticipating it. But Roenick intercepted it at the top of the circle and Tkachuk regained the lead for the Coyotes.

    "I yelled at Keith Carney to get out of the way," Roenick said. "He saw me coming and he backed off. Keith and I like that play a lot. He just missed a couple of times this year on it, but he made no mistake on it tonight, that's for sure."

    Mike Sullivan ended a 60-game drought with a shorthanded goal against Storr, who started his fifth straight game in place of Stephane Fiset. Fiset continues to be sidelined by a bruised right hand.

    "Tkachuk was in close enough and he shot it hard enough," Storr said after his record fell to 5-1-1. "He got lucky where it was placed just under my glove and over my pad. But he's scored 40 goals a season, and that's why."

    Trevor Letowski also scored for the Coyotes, and Bob Essensa made 29 saves. Essensa was particularly brilliant in the third period, stopping all 15 shots he faced.

    "I didn't know where every shot was going, but certainly I got a few breaks," Essensa said. "You need a few breaks to pull out victories especially on the road against a quality club like L.A. has."

    Aki Berg and Donald Audette scored, and Glen Murray had two assists for the Kings, who lost for only the second time in their last 12 games (8-2-2).

    Audette put Los Angeles ahead 2-1 at 3:42 of the second period, getting the puck deep in the right circle from Murray and lifting it into the top right corner of the net while Essensa was on his knees.

    The Coyotes tied it at 11:24 when Sullivan beat Dan Bylsma on a faceoff deep in the Kings' zone, J.J. Daignault hit the right post with a 55-foot slap shot from the left point and Letowski converted the rebound.

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