A three-goal lead nearly blown against the team they never can seem to beat, the Phoenix Coyotes could have gotten that here-we-go-again feeling.
Instead, the Coyotes dug in and dug out a confidence-boosting win, finally securing that playoff berth they had been chasing for what seemed like a month.
Building a big lead and withstanding a furious late flurry, the Coyotes beat back the charging San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Friday night to secure a playoff spot in their final home game.
"At the start of the year, your goal is to win the division and get into the top eight to give yourself a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Sometimes, that happens earlier than others. This year, it didn't happen until the second-to-last game of the season, but we are still in there."
Phoenix had lost eight straight to San Jose and limped toward the end of the season, putting its seemingly once-certain playoff chances in doubt. The Coyotes appeared ready to end both dilemmas in one swoop, building a 4-1 lead on Shane Doan's goal midway through the third period.
Then they got complacent, which doesn't work against an opportunistic team like San Jose.
Joe Thornton scored for his 1,000th career point, Dany Heatley knocked in his 26th goal with 3:39 and the Sharks smelled in the frozen water after that, racing into Phoenix's zone like they had 10 men on the ice.