Phoenix Coyotes are in; Yotes Clinch Playoff Spot With Win Over Colorado Avalanche; Next Up: Vancouver Canucks

It's not often that a team clinches a spot in the playoffs and a player musters a Gordie Howe hat-trick in the same game, but both happened on Saturday during the Phoenix Coyotes thrilling 6-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Glendale.


The Coyotes clinched a spot in the Western Conference playoffs -- for the first time since 2002 -- with the win, a likely place to be after a storybook season that began with the Howlers losing a coach, and the team's fate in the Valley being anything but certain.

The Coyotes have played like a playoff-caliber team for most of the season but the addition of a few players at the trade deadline a few weeks ago made the Yotes a team analysts aren't afraid to mention in the same sentence as the Stanley Cup.

Those players were on display Saturday night.

Four of the Coyotes' six goals were scored by players the team picked up at the trade deadline, including two goals and an assist from forward Lee Stempniak -- his 12th goal in as many games since he was traded to the Coyotes.

Coyotes winger Taylor Pyatt managed an impressive statistic of his own on Saturday by earning what is known in the hockey world as a Gordie Howe hat-trick.

A Howe hat-trick is when a player scores a goal, gets an assist, and gets in a fight, all in the same game. Pyatt did each of those things, and he did them well -- just ask Chris Stewart's face.

Pyatt and Stewart squared off after exchanging hits in the neutral zone. There was no knockout, but Pyatt came to the table swinging while Stewart's face played the role off punching bag before each player was escorted to the penalty box.

Check the fight out here.

The Coyotes have already set the franchise record for points this season, but Saturday's win put them on track with the Washington Capitals and the San Jose Sharks as the only teams to reach 100 points so far this season, and fans have taken notice.

The Coyotes sold out Saturday's game, something the team has only done once this season, when they played the Chicago Blackhawks last weekend.

"The growth of the fan base, and the growth of the energy in the building, from where we started in the fall to where we are now, is remarkable," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett tells the Associated Press, "and it's a real credit to the players, to how hard they've committed themselves to play, and it's a real credit to the fans that they've recognized that and they're coming and having fun at the games."

The Coyotes hit the ice next when they head to Vancouver to face the Canucks. The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona. For more info on the Coyotes, check out the team's Web site here.

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