DALLAS - How much can your outlook on life change in two months? Ask Brian Boucher, who has gone from not even practicing with the Coyotes and awaiting the next destination in his career to the hottest goalie in the NHL — still in Phoenix, no less.
How much can the outlook of a team change in two games? Ask the Coyotes, who were reeling after coughing up a last-minute lead to the Rangers five days ago but have since steamrolled two playoff-caliber teams with 10 unanswered goals — suddenly looking like postseason material.
Boucher pitched his second shutout in three days, sealing the deal with 18 of his 35 saves in the third period, while the Coyotes scored twice in each period and hammered the Dallas Stars 6-0 Friday in front of 18,425 stunned Texans. Stringing wins together for the first time in almost a month, the Coyotes head to Carolina just one point behind Nashville and Dallas for the final playoff spot and suddenly brimming with newfound confidence — from the net out.
“It's a crazy game. I guess I get shutouts in bunches and then I wait eighty-something games,'' said Boucher, who shut out the Kings 4-0 Wednesday in Glendale Arena before celebrating his 27th birthday Friday in style. “I've dealt with some adversity and tried to stay positive and hope for an opportunity. I got one and I'm just trying to play well. That's all I can control.''
Control is the right word for Boucher, who has stopped 66 straight shots during a 140-minute, 45-second shutout streak that will likely freeze with Sean Burke the likely starter against the Hurricanes.
“That's the Brian Boosh I saw as a teammate in Philly and for him to come all the way back is great to see,'' center Daymond Langkow said. “He deserves it. He stayed positive under tough circumstances, worked hard and showed what a competitor he is. We have two great goaltenders and that can take you a long way.''
The Stars were unbeaten in six games (4-0-2) but were never in this one, suffering their worst home loss in the three-year history of American Airlines Arena. Meanwhile. trying to find a Coyote who didn't contribute was tough.
Langkow and Shane Doan had a goal and an assist each, with rookie Freddie Sjostrom flashing in front of Dallas goalie Marty Turco to screen him out each time. Defensemen Cale Hulse and Paul Mara were a combined plus-8. Ladislav Nagy and Branko Radivojevic had power-play goals against a Dallas unit that hadn't allowed one in 12 games (41 straight kills). But the standouts were Boucher — who had back-to-back shutouts within 24 hours for Philadelphia (Oct. 30-31, 2001) and then went more than two years (84 games) without one — and the suddenly clicking line of Brian Savage, Chris Gratton and Daniel Cleary, who combined for two goals and five points.
“Three guys who stick out tonight are Brian Boucher, Danny Cleary and Chris Gratton,'' Phoenix coach Bob Francis said. “It's really nice to see three guys respond who've had a lot thrown at them. They've overcome some challenges and it makes you feel good.''
Cleary, who was either injured (eight games) or ineffective in his first two-plus months as a Coyote, has suddenly earned a home on the third line. He intercepted a horrible clearing attempt by starting Dallas goalie Ron Tugnutt — who was benched after the play — to set up Gratton's first-period goal, then pinched along the boards to smother another clear before Savage scored on a centering pass by Gratton in the third.