The Coyotes went 0-2 in two road games before The Great One's
long-awaited debut at home.
"It wasn't pretty, but it counts," Gretzky said.
The game-winner was a reflection of the changes Gretzky made
during his years as the team's managing partner for hockey
operations -- and one he didn't.
Doan, one of the top holdovers from the 2003-04 team coached by
Bob Francis most of that season, redirected a slap shot by Sean
O'Donnell into the net with 4:42 remaining for the game-winner.
O'Donnell got the puck from Mike Leclerc, who acquired it below the
goal line and skated toward the circle before passing out.
"It's a big thing we've been preaching -- pucks and people to
the net -- and we finally got one to go in," Doan said.
O'Donnell and Leclerc are newcomers to the team, attracted to
the desert by a chance to play in an organization led by Gretzky,
who decided in August to coach the team. So is Curtis Joseph
(1-1-0), who made 23 saves for the win, his 397th.
Ladislav Nagy scored Phoenix's first goal on his first penalty
The Coyotes dropped games in Vancouver and Los Angeles, each
time by 3-2 scores, in Gretzky's first two coaching ventures. But
that only built the anticipation -- the crowd was announced as a
sellout at 17,799 in the new Glendale Arena -- and the cheering
began before the first puck dropped when the Coyotes unretired the
No. 9 jersey worn in Winnipeg by Bobby Hull so that Brett Hull, his
son, could wear it for the remainder of his career.
"It was certainly a special night," Joseph said. "The best
father-son ever to play, and to see Bobby pass the jersey over to
Brett. And I think it's only fitting for Brett to wear No. 9 with
Hull on the back. It was a nice, classy ceremony."
The loss in Los Angeles was painful to Gretzky, who took the
blame for signing a lineup sheet that took forward Fredrik Sjostrom
out of the lineup even though he was in uniform and on the ice
before the game. Assistant coaches tried to defuse the gaffe by
pointing out that they made out the roster, but the embarrassment
This time, it was all smiles for Gretzky, who got the biggest
cheers as the final seconds ticked off.
Gretzky, credited with popularizing hockey in the Southwest and
Sun Belt, is the NHL's leading scorer. In Doan, one of the game's
emerging power forwards, the quick, explosive Nagy, Joseph and big
defensemen like O'Donnell, he has a team that he may be able to
coax into the playoffs as he promised during the celebrations of
his coaching decision.
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire felt his team lost focus.
"They all wanted to score," Lemaire said. "Anything goes --
winger plays defense, centerman plays the wing. Everyone wants to
cover the other guy's job and doesn't do their job."
Joseph was staunch during the first period, stopping 12 of 13
But he couldn't find the handle on a rebound of Pierre-Marc
Bouchard's slap shot on the third Minnesota power play. Robitaille
got the puck in the circle and wristed it into the net below
Joseph's glove with 6:28 left in the first.
Nagy, activated from injured reserve after missing the first two
games with a sore shoulder, tied it with 1:13 to go in the Coyotes'
first penalty shot of the season after Wild defenseman Nick Schultz
whacked Nagy on the leg with his stick to interrupt a breakaway.
The Slovakian left wing bore down on Roloson along the right
side of the slot, shifted left and fired low and to the goalie's
Phoenix's Zbynek Michalek tripped Daigle with his stick with
2:17 remaining in the second period. Daigle went straight in,
firing the puck inches outside the post after Joseph crowded the
pipe to his left.
"Usually you see one shot per team in a whole season," Gretzky
said. "To see two in one night is pretty rare, but that's exciting
for the fans."
^Notes:@ The two penalty shots in one game was a franchise first,
and the first time in the NHL since Jan. 27, 2004, between Tampa
Bay and Pittsburgh. ... New Coyotes LW Geoff Sanderson will join
the team Sunday and play his first game for Phoenix on Tuesday at
Dallas. The Coyotes acquired Sanderson and prospect Tim Jackman in
a trade with Columbus. They gave up LW Jason Chimera, D Cale Hulse
and C Mike Rupp. ... Minnesota G Manny Fernandez, who didn't suit
up for the Wild's opener Wednesday against Calgary because of
muscle spasms, was in uniform and warmed up extensively before this
game. ... The Coyotes lost C Mike Ricci with 8:29 left in the third
when teammate Boyd Devereaux deflected a slap shot by Schultz into
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Gila River Arena Location: Glendale, Arizona
Referees: Dennis LaRue, Rob Shick Linesmen: Mike Cvik, Darren Gibbs
Attendance: 17,799 (103.9% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Randy Robitaille (1)
(Power Play) Assists: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brian Rolston
Ladislav Nagy (1)
(Shorthanded) (Penalty Shot) Unassisted
No scoring this period
Shane Doan (1)
Assists: Sean O'Donnell, Mike Leclerc