GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - The Phoenix Coyotes gave Dave Tippett his 450th career victory with just the kind of game the coach loves: gritty defensive play, strong goaltending and a bit of resiliency.
Martin Hanzal had a goal and an assist, Mike Smith stopped 32 shots and the Coyotes held off the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Saturday night, handing Tippett another milestone win.
“If you’re going to win in this league, you need that (gritty play) every night,” said Tippett, who also notched his 100th home victory in Phoenix. “It was nice to see us come through with a couple wins like that.”
Coming off a shutout victory in their last game, the Coyotes got off to a strong start with a pair of goals from their fourth line.
Jeff Halpern had one and Jordan Szwarz had the other before playing the third period with stiches in his chin after being cut with a skate late in the second.
Hanzal gave the Coyotes a two-goal cushion, but they had to hold on against New Jersey’s big push to earn their first winning streak since beating Colorado and the New York Islanders on Dec. 10-12.
“One of our key points coming in was getting off to a fast start and I felt like we did a good job doing that,” Szwarz said. “We put a lot of pucks behind their defense and we were able to block some shots early to get off to a good start, then finish it off.”
New Jersey got off to a sluggish start at the end of a four-game road trip before rallying to make it close. Ryane Clowe had a goal and an assist and Jaromir Jagr scored his 696th career goal with 2:14 left in regulation.
Jagr had another good chance with just over a minute left, but was stopped by Smith to end the Devils’ point streak at six games.
“We got off to a slow start and that was disappointing, inexcusable really for not having played yesterday,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “We can’t spot anyone two goals. That’s the bottom line.”
Phoenix got back to its defensive roots in its last game Thursday night, beating Vancouver 1-0 behind Smith’s first shutout of the season and the return of defenseman Zbynek Michalek after he missed 13 games with a hip injury.
Before that, the Coyotes had been erratic in their own end and lost 12 of their previous 16 games.
New Jersey has had the opposite problem.
The Devils have been solid behind the blue line lately, allowing six goals over the past five games. The problem has been scoring: New Jersey has scored 117 goals, 25th in the league.
The Coyotes were sharp in the first period.