Phoenix Coyotes Cruisin' to Playoffs With Big Wins Over Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars; Up Next: Chicago Blackhawks -- Again

After two big wins this weekend, the Phoenix Coyotes find themselves in an unlikely spot: tied for first place in the Western Conference and number two overall on ESPN's weekly power rankings.

The Coyotes got two shootout wins this weekend, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in front of a sold-out, home crowd on Saturday and the Dallas Stars 3-2 in another shootout stunner on Sunday.

The Coyotes have extended their winning streak to nine games, matching a franchise record dating back to the days of the Winnipeg Jets.

On Saturday, the Howlers managed to rally back from two two-goal deficits to force overtime with the Blackhawks, where Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was perfect and Radim Vrbata scored the lone goal to get the victory.

Lee Stempniak, acquired by the Coyotes a few weeks ago from the Toronto Mapleleafs, scored twice in the win, while Adrian Aucoin and Wojtek Wolski -- another new edition to the team -- each scored once.

After the big win Saturday, and coming off of a four-game road trip, the Doggies headed to Dallas to take on the Stars.

Bryzgalov had the day off but it didn't matter. Aside from some rebound issues, his replacement -- backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera -- was good enough to get the win.

Peter Prucha got the scoring started for the Coyotes, slapping one past Dallas goalie Marty Turco with one second remaining in the first period.

Radim Vrbata sneaked one past Turco early in the second period, giving the Yotes a two goal lead.

The Stars rallied to find the back of the net twice, tying the game at two by the end of regulation.

In overtime, the Coyotes had a chance to put it away when Phoenix captain Shane Doan found a rebound and fired a quick shot at an open net. Hopes of the Coyotes winning a game not as the result of a shootout were dashed, however, when Turco threw up his blocker at the last second making a circus save with his stick to send the game into a shootout.

In the shootout, LaBarbera gave up the first shot but that was the only one that found its way past the Yotes B-squad goaltender.

LaBarbera was perfect in stopping the three remaining shots, and Adrian Aucoin put one between the pipes for the win on the Howlers' fourth shot.

If there were any doubters remaining, with the win over the high-powered Hawks, the Phoenix Coyotes are now officially a Stanley Cup-caliber team.

The Doggies hit the ice next when they face off against the Blackhawks in Chicago tomorrow night. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona. For more information on the Coyotes, check out the team's Web site here.

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