Coyotes squeak past Panthers
Glendale, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Mike Smith made 22 saves and the Phoenix Coyotes strengthen their grip on the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference by clipping the visiting Florida Panthers, 2-1.
Radim Vrbata and Antoine Vermette scored in the first period for the Coyotes, who have won four straight at home and seven of their last nine games overall. Phoenix now leads Dallas by four points for the final playoff spot.
Roberto Luongo stopped 20 shots for Florida, which had gone 2-0-1 in its previous three games.
The Panthers got a third-period goal from Scott Gomez, whose wrister from the high slot eluded Smith's glove with 4:07 to play, but they couldn't sneak another puck past the Phoenix netminder.
The Coyotes converted on an early power play, their only one of the game.
Martin Hanzal was the net-front presence during the man advantage, but got drilled by Oliver Ekman-Larsson's point shot. Vrbata jumped on the loose puck in the low slot and put it behind Luongo at the 2:56 mark.
Vermette lit the lamp with 1:22 remaining after Luongo stopped Michael Stone's drive from the point. Luongo also denied Vermette's initial rebound bid, but he was knocked down in a collision and the Coyotes forward snapped the puck home.
Luongo was irate, protesting that the goal should have been waved off.
Phoenix has won five of the last six meetings with Florida ... The Panthers were 0-for-3 on the power play.
03/21 01:03:34 ET