Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/21/12
The Coyotes lost more than a game Tuesday night in Dallas. They probably lost their captain for a good chunk of the season's stretch run, dealing a severe blow to their hopes of winning the Pacific Division title and maybe even making the postseason. Shane Doan was just fined 2,500 by the NHL on Friday for boarding Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano during a game Thursday in Calgary. He was also one of the first offenders punished under newly instated Rule 48 in October of 2010 when he was suspended three games for a blind-side hit on Anaheim's Dan Sexton. On Tuesday, with the Coyotes already trailing the Stars, 2-1, early in the second period of an enormous division showdown in Dallas, Doan clearly threw his elbow out at Stars forward Jamie Benn as he skated past, striking Benn in the head and dropping him to the ice. The fact that Benn wasn't hurt in the Stars'4-3 shootout win may help the length of Doan's suspension, but it's doubtful it will stay the executioner's hand. Doan's intent was apparent, and it was written all over his face the moment he turned back up ice, saw the referee signaling for a penalty, then took out his frustration by challenging Dallas' Brenden Morrow to an impromptu fight. When league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan looks at this one, he'll come to an easy conclusion. Doan should have learned his lesson from past transgressions. Dangerous plays like this have no place in the game. "It's going to be tough if that happens," defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson told FOX Sports Arizona's Todd Walsh. "He's a great player and a really good leader." Credit the Coyotes for getting up off the mat and scoring two third-period goals to force overtime and earn a valuable point. Ekman-Larsson had a short-handed tally and Ray Whitney got the equalizer on a brilliant and patient goal that mirrored his season as the club's most valuable forward. Ekman-Larsson had a chance to win it late in the third but Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen robbed him with a jaw-dropping, old-fashioned, stack-pad save to keep the Stars atop the Pacific Division despite losses in their previous two games. "If you look at the last part of the game and the overtime, it's a game we deserved to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. Unfortunately for Phoenix, it didn't. Phoenix got five of a possible eight points on this four-game trip to stay in playoff range, but Colorado and Los Angeles also won Tuesday, dropping Phoenix into ninth place in the Western Conference standings. With leading scorer Radim Vrbata still out of the lineup due to an undisclosed illness, and veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin out with a lower body injury, losing Doan would be a heavy blow during the season's stretch run. "We're lacking a few bodies right now," Tippett said. "That would be one we couldn't miss." Especially now. The Coyotes' next four games are against Colorado, San Jose, St. Louis and San Jose again. Colorado and San Jose are battling with the Coyotes for the final Western Conference playoff spots. St. Louis owns the NHL's best record and the two games against San Jose represent the final two games Phoenix has within its division -- in other words, the final two games in which the Coyotes have a chance to make a major impact on the Pacific race. This isn't hockey the hard way. It looks like hockey the impossible way. Doan plays with an edge. He usually gets his subtle shots in on opponents. It's part of what makes him effective, but he normally keeps it within the rules. He made a mistake Tuesday. Everyone knows what kind of human being Doan is. This does not change that and let's not forget he assisted on both of those third period goals that helped the Coyotes earn a point. But a momentary lapse of reason could very well cost his team the Pacific Division title, and even a playoff spot. That would be cruel irony for a guy who has given everything and meant everything to this franchise for its 15 seasons in the Valley.
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