Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/23/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even before Coyotes captain Shane Doan's three-game suspension was handed down Wednesday, more than one player mentioned that the looming penalty just meant other guys needed to bring a little something extra. "At the end of the day, it's going to be a chance for other guys to step up coming down the stretch," left wing Raffi Torres said at the time. No one could have known it then, but "other guys" apparently meant "me," as Torres took it upon himself to help fill the void with a two-point game in the Coyotes' 3-2 win Thursday night over the Avalanche. "The guys knew they had to step up," coach Dave Tippett said. "We had some guys step up and take the minutes. That's what makes our team the way we are: We can find ways to do things like that." With Doan serving the first game of his suspension for an elbow to the head of Stars forward Jamie Benn on Tuesday, the Coyotes entered the final playoff push under the gun. Beating the Avalanche, who are also battling for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, was a huge first move. The two-point boost moved the Coyotes from ninth and out of the playoffs to tied for the Pacific Division lead (with the Kings at 86 points) and in -- for now. "We showed some character and grit with our captain out of the lineup," said goalie Mike Smith. "Obviously he's missed, but guys stepped up in his place tonight." Torres has come on strong of late, with goals in four of the previous seven games. Right from the start Thursday night, he set the tone for an aggressive attack. Just three and a half minutes into the game, Torres set up center Daymond Langkow for a goal amid three defenders just in front of the crease, the first time the Coyotes had scored first since March 10. Torres was initially credited with the goal, but further review gave Langkow the goal (his 10th of the season) and Torres the assist. No matter: Torres would get his goal, and it proved the difference-maker. A goal from center Kyle Chipchura near the end of the first period had given the Coyotes a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission, but that advantage wasn't as comfortable as it seemed against a Colorado team that entered the night hot, with wins in 11 of its last 15 games. Torres took to padding the Coyotes lead in the middle period. With 3:05 remaining in the second period, Torres controlled a rebound off Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov on the left side and fired the puck right back for his 16th goal of the season. "We're just keeping it simple," Torres said. "Just keep cycling pucks, keep using the back and eventually it's going to open up for you. If you keep working the (defense), they're going to fall apart." The third period brought a momentum shift, and the Coyotes watched their lead shrink as Colorado got physical. The Avalanche got third-period goals from centers Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stasny to cut their deficit to one. The Coyotes held on, though, making Torres' goal all the more important in hindsight. Torres' play of late, at a time when things have been especially tight, is exactly what the Coyotes expected when they acquired him in the offseason. They believed his physical style would provide a needed boost come this time of the season, and he's delivered. "He's shooting the puck hard, he's going to the net hard," Tippett said. "He's been a real valuable player for us. If you look at (Torres') history in the playoffs and late in the year, that's when he plays his best. That's what you're seeing right now." Torres' explanation of his recent surge accentuated his understanding that, in the thick of a playoff race, every shot has to matter. That's been the difference lately. "It's shooting to score and not just shooting to get pucks on the net," Torres said. "Trying to put pucks in the back of the net." Little did the Coyotes know when they brought him in that Torres' late-season surge would help make up for Doan's absence. With Doan out for two more games, though -- tough contests against San Jose and St. Louis -- Torres' performance will remain paramount. But he's not alone. Gilbert Brule, too, came up big Thursday with two assists. And Smith notched 39 saves for his 100th career victory. The Coyotes are far from secure in their quest for a playoff spot, but with Torres and the rest stepping up in their leader's absence, they couldn't have gotten off to a better start.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

It’s not even June, but the San Francisco Giants are probably screwed

Odell Beckham Jr. appears to take shot at Ben McAdoo

Report: Seahawks players feel Sherman bombshell story ‘nailed it’

Turkey: Kanter a member of terrorist group, issues warrant

Chad Johnson says Roger Goodell consulted him on touchdown celebration rule change

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Kevin Durant is not to blame for the NBA’s lack of parity, and he knows it

Khloe Kardashian called out Cavs fan who mentioned ‘curse’

Warriors’ Mike Brown: Steve Kerr may be back for the Finals

Dodgers transfer Andrew Toles and Scott Kazmir to the 60-day disabled list

Looking back at 40 years of women racing in the Indianapolis 500

U.S. national soccer teams to wear LGBT-themed jerseys to celebrate pride month

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker