|Phoenix Coyotes' Keith Yandle, left, handles the puck around Los Angeles Kings' Dustin Brown during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Monday, Feb. 18, 2008 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -The calendar reads February, yet the Phoenix Coyotes are making a push worthy of the playoffs.
That's where they'd like to be come April, with a postseason berth for the first time since 2002. If they keep playing the Los Angeles Kings, it might happen.
Radim Vrbata scored a goal, assisted on two others and Phoenix won 4-0 on Monday night for Wayne Gretzky's 100th victory as coach.
"I don't really worry about that kind of stuff," said Gretzky, who became the NHL's all-time leading scorer and goal scorer during his eight seasons in Los Angeles. "We're doing a lot better than anybody anticipated."
Gretzky's Coyotes are 6-0 against his former team this season, winning by a combined total of 21-7. His 99th win also came against the Kings, 4-3 on Saturday at Phoenix.
"Part of it is luck and right now we are lucky," Gretzky said.
Phoenix won its third in a row and holds down seventh place in the Western Conference. Its 31st victory matched the team's win total from last season.
"It's consistency," Vrbata said. "We try to play the same way every game. We've been clicking. We just want to keep it going the same way. Every game is like the playoffs for us."
Mikael Tellqvist stopped 34 shots for his sixth career shutout and eighth victory of the season, starting in place of Ilya Bryzgalov.
|POST GAME NOTES
|The Kings out-shot Phoenix 17-5 in the third period…
The Kings out-hit Phoenix 29-13 in the game…
With five more hits, Dustin Brown raised his league-leading total to 255…
Jack Johnson led the Kings with 25:02 of ice time. It was the fifth time in the last eight games he’s logged at least 25 minutes of ice time…
It was the first time the Kings have lost back-to-back games since Jan. 5 vs. Calgary and Jan. 8 vs. Nashville…
he Kings are now 6-5-2 all-time at home on President’s Day
|POST GAME QUOTES|
Marc Crawford: 700K
|The Kings will host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, Feb. 21.|
"It's always nice to have a shutout for this team," Tellqvist said. "I just want to contribute the times I play. Every game is really important for us."
Vrbata had the winning goal Saturday night, and he kept up the pace Monday.
With Michael Cammalleri off for holding, Ed Jovanovski scored a power-play goal on a slap shot that deflected in off Jason LaBarbera at 3:45 of the first period. Vrbata and Shane Doan assisted.
Vrbata capitalized on a defensive mistake 1:21 later, making it 2-0 with his career-high 27th goal. Dustin Brown tried to pass the puck out of the zone and it ended up on Vrbata's stick with three defenders chasing him.
"It was a disappointing effort. I didn't think we skated hard enough," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "It looked like we were a tired hockey club. We knew that this would be a challenging game, our third game in four nights and the amount of travel that we've done lately. I don't think we battled with the type of intensity that you need to battle with."
Phoenix extended its lead with a pair of goals in the second. Daniel Carcillo beat LaBarbera's glove side on passes from Steven Reinprecht and Vrbata at 4:16.
"His skill level is really tremendous," Gretzky said about Vrbata. "We know he can score goals; we're really happy with his defensive play. Coaches like low-maintenance players. All he does is show up and work hard every day."
Daniel Winnik took a pass in front of the net from Jovanovski and chipped it past LaBarbera at 12:40, triggering more boos from 16,617 Kings fans.
LaBarbera made 25 saves for the Kings, who have lost four of six and remain mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
"We match up well against them, but for whatever reason they have our number," LaBarbera said. "They find ways to beat us. They did a good job of coming out early and establishing their fore-check and coming out with speed. We sat back and got caught on our heels early and they took it from there."
The Kings outshot the Coyotes 17-5 in the third period, but couldn't convert and went 0-for-5 on the power play.
Notes: The Kings are idle until Thursday's game against St. Louis. Tellqvist had 35 saves in his previous shutout Nov. 2 at Dallas. ... The Coyotes improved to 22-0-0 when scoring four or more goals. ... The teams meet twice more. ... Jovanovski has two goals and nine assists against the Kings this season.