Although the Colorado Avalanche took a step toward solving their special-teams problems, they didn't get close to figuring out what's wrong this season.
Phoenix's Oleg Tverdovsky broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal in the third period, and Rick Tocchet, Teppo Numminen and Mike Stapleton scored even-strength goals as the Coyotes beat the Avalanche 5-2 on Thursday night.
Mike Sullivan scored into an empty net with 21 seconds left.
"They've been really tough to play against, but it's a big win for us," Numminen said. "We played really bad the first game this season, and we had three good days of practice and went back to basics."
It was Colorado's fourth loss in as many games as the 1996 Stanley Cup champions continued to struggle under first-year coach Bob Hartley.
The Coyotes got their first win after a 4-1 opening loss to Ottawa on Sunday. And it was monumental for a franchise that had developed into the Avalanche's favorite whipping boys.
The Coyotes had not beaten the Avalanche franchise on home ice since Dec. 23, 1993, when they were based in Winnipeg and the Avalanche were in Quebec. The then-Jets won in Denver on March 27, 1996, but went 0-7-1 against the Avalanche during the Coyotes' first two seasons in Phoenix.
"I think this is a big win, because we might end up playing these guys again (in the playoffs), and when you don't beat a team they get you psychologically and mentally," Tocchet said.
Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk, booed at every introduction since his holdout for a $16.7 million contract extension, got his first point by assisting on Stapleton's goal. But coach Jim Schoenfeld saw something positive even in Tkachuk's early goal drught.
"We scored five and Keith didn't get any," Schoenfeld said. "We know Keith's going to score some goals, so it's good that we're getting production from a lot of other people. If they can keep it up, then you get that big line to score and we're going to put on a pretty good show."
The Coyotes were unspectacular early on.
Joe Sakic scored a shorthanded goal on Phoenix's first power play, and Adam Deadmarsh scored with an advantage, reversing trends that had the Avalanche 26th in stopping power plays coming in, and 25th in power-play scoring.
But Colorado's 2-0 lead was short-lived.
Tocchet, standing in the slot, took a wraparound pass from Cliff Ronning and fired it past Craig Billington with 6:42 left in the second period.
Numminen tied it with 3:18 left in the period with an unlikely goal that began as a pass from behind the net. The puck hit one Colorado player and then ricocheted off defenseman Alexei Gusarov before sliding past Billington.
The third period belonged to the Coyotes.
Tverdovsky took a pass from Ronning and sent a slap shot from the blue line past Billington 8:25 into the period. Stapleton scored the clincher with a 40-foot slap shot 29 seconds later.
"We go up 2-0 and they get a goal right from the slot, just like our first one," said Peter Forsberg, who assisted on both Colorado goals. "If you're not working enough, you don't get the bounces, I guess. So it's just coming back right in our faces. We've got to play better to win."
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 22 shots for Phoenix. Billington, making his first start for Patrick Roy, turned back 23.
Sakic's second-period goal, his third and Colorado's first shorthanded goal of the season, was spectacular.
The Avalanche captain took the puck away from Keith Carney at center ice, skated in as Carney and Dallas Drake gave chase, and fired the puck past Khabibulin 5:23 into the second period.
When Deadmarsh made it 2-0 with his goal 9:02 into the second period, it was only the Avalanche's second goal in their first 21 power plays.
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