Inquirer Daily News

Coyotes hope to boost playoff chances in South Florida

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Coyotes will try to help their postseason chances by winning for the fourth time in five games when they visit the Florida Panthers for Tuesday's battle at BB&T Center.

The Coyotes picked up a 4-3 shootout win Monday in Tampa for their third win in four outings. Radim Vrbata scored the winner in the decisive phase to help Phoenix edge the Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

With the win, Phoenix moved within one point of Dallas for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Stars were scheduled to play on Monday, but that home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was postponed early in the first period due to a medical emergency to Dallas forward Rich Peverley.

Peverley, who had a procedure performed during the preseason to correct an irregular heartbeat, was taken to a local Dallas hospital and is in stable condition. The Stars made the trip to St. Louis for tonight's game against the Blues .

Vrbata had the second chance for Phoenix in the shootout and he faked to the backhand before lifting it high past Ben Bishop. Mike Smith then stretched the left pad out to the post to stop Ryan Callahan's stuff attempt for the win.

Martin Erat, Brandon McMillan and Mikkel Boedker all scored for the Coyotes, while Smith stopped 28 shots.

"I think we responded well to get the two points here," said Smith. "We've been giving up too many leads lately, but we held tough and we're able to get a big win."

Phoenix is playing the third test of a four-game road trip tonight. The club is just 11-13-8 as the visiting team this season.

The Panthers are 16 points out of a playoff spot in the East and are likely going to miss the postseason for the 12th time in 13 seasons. With only three wins over its last 12 games, Florida also doesn't seem like a team primed to play a spoiler role down the stretch.

Florida has lost two of its last three games and both setbacks during that stretch came against the Boston Bruins. The Panthers lost 4-1 at Boston last Tuesday then beat a visiting Buffalo club by a 2-0 score on Friday before dropping a home test against the Bruins on Sunday.

The Panthers scored first on Sunday and were tied with Boston at 1-1 after 40 minutes, but the Bruins wound up dominating the third period to claim a 5-2 victory at BB&T Center.

Jimmy Hayes scored both goals for the Panthers, who have lost six of their last eight. Roberto Luongo gave up four goals on 41 shots in defeat.

"They came out hard in the third," said Luongo, who fell to 1-1-0 since returning to the Panthers via a trade last week.

Florida, which fell to 12-14-4 as the host this season, is capping a three- game homestand tonight.

Tuesday's game is the first encounter between the Coyotes and Panthers since Phoenix recorded a 2-1 regulation win in South Florida on Dec. 20, 2011. The Coyotes have claimed three of four in the series overall and have won two in a row and four of five in Sunrise, Fla.

03/11 11:03:57 ET