It's early in the season, but victories over Western Conference heavyweights Detroit and Dallas in their last three games have Phoenix Coyotes fans excited about their team's Stanley Cup prospects.
Jimmy Waite turned aside 38 shots as the Coyotes continued their best start in the 20-year history of the franchise in Winnipeg and Phoenix with a 2-0 victory over Dallas Wednesday night, handing the Stars their first home defeat of the season.
Coach Jim Schoenfeld likes how his team is playing, but he says it takes more than 11 games to make a champion.
"To do it on a consistent basis month after month is the key," Schoenfeld said. "We're thrilled about the start, but it's more important to finish strong."
Keith Tkachuk and Jyrki Lumme scored for Phoenix, 7-2-2 overall and 5-0-2 in its last seven games. The Coyotes haven't lost since Oct. 22, when they were edged by the Stars in Dallas 2-1.
Phoenix won its first game in Dallas since Feb. 12, 1997. Dallas opened the season 6-0-1 at home and had been on a 12-0-1 regular season streak at Reunion Arena over the last two seasons.
Waite, who drew his third start of the season in place of No. 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, listed as day-to-day with a bruised hand, has allowed only two goals this season.
"Jimmy had a tremendous game," Schoenfeld said. "They had upwards of 15 good scoring chances and he threw a shutout at 'em."
| It's early, but Keith Tkachuck and the Coyotes have Phoenix fans thinking Stanley Cup. (AP) |
The Stars held a 38-18 shots-on-goal advantage, although few of their opportunities tested Waite, who registered his fourth career shutout and first of the season. Waite denied the Stars' best scoring chance of the night on Guy Carbonneau's shorthanded breakaway with 14:39 to play.
"The guys did a good job keeping them away from the net and at bad angles," Waite said. "I had a few good saves early and that got me going."
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Waite had a fairly easy night because his team did not play its normal grinding style. Dallas has been shutout victims in two of its last three games.
"We played well at times, but we didn't get into the gritty areas and didn't get the job done." Hitchcock said.
At 7-3-2, Dallas is still one of the league's most successful teams, but defenseman Darryl Sydor said the Stars have yet to give a consistent effort.
"We've got to start working a lot harder," Sydor said. "We haven't played a 60-minute game yet this season."
Tkachuk crashed the net and muscled the puck past Dallas goalie Ed Belfour at 14:15 of the first period for Tkachuk's eighth goal of the season.
After only 22 seconds of the second period had elapsed, Lumme notched his second goal of the season to extend the Phoenix advantage to 2-0.
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