PHILADELPHIA -- Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Friday, before they played the Philadelphia Flyers, that backup goalie Thomas Greiss, making his first start for the team, had a chance to truly bond with his teammates.
"That position is an interesting position," Tippett told NHL.com. "He's got to earn the respect of the players. Show them in practice that he is a quality player, and when he gets the chance to go out there and prove it, the players have to have that confidence in him. I think he's earned that confidence."
A performance like the one Greiss gave Friday certainly goes a long way in earning that respect and confidence.
He stopped 36 of 37 shots, and the Coyotes won for the second straight night, defeating the Flyers 2-1 at Wells Fargo Center.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson's power-play goal with 13 second to go in the second period snapped a 1-1 tie. Rob Klinkhammer also scored for Phoenix.
The win gave the Coyotes a sweep of their first back-to-back set of games this season; they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 Thursday. It's the first time the Coyotes have won both ends of a back-to-back since April 6-7, 2012, the final two games of the 2011-12 season.
"Having a guy come in and really make some good saves at critical times, that builds the confidence of the team, that you can win in a tough situation," Tippett said after the game. "That's exactly what you ask for."
It's what a tired team needed.
"The first five minutes they were flying and we were fortunate to get out of it without being down," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "How calm did [Greiss] look in there? He was so calm and relaxed and did a great job. We're fortunate to have great goaltending. We've had great goaltending here the last few years. We count on that big time and he just stepped in and that was unbelievable."
In addition to losing the game, the Flyers also lost top-six forwards Scott Hartnell and Vincent Lecavalier for at least a week. Hartnell sustained an upper-body injury in the first period, and Lecavalier sustained a lower-body injury in the second. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said each will have an MRI exam Saturday. Holmgren said he had not decided on any call-ups; the Flyers have one extra forward on the roster, Kris Newbury.
While they're getting examined, the Flyers will be in Detroit to play the Red Wings on Saturday. For a team still adjusting to a new style of play under coach Craig Berube, it makes their absence even more difficult. However, Berube said there's no looking back.
"It's tougher but it doesn't matter, does it?" he said. "We have to win hockey games. People will come in and fill in for them."
The Flyers appeared to steal the momentum of the game late in the second period. Zac Rinaldo jumped on a loose puck in the high slot, spun and threw a shot that was going wide until it hit Talbot's right skate and went past Greiss with 2:31 remaining to tie it.
But with 25.8 seconds to go in the period, Rinaldo was called for high-sticking when he hit Mike Ribeiro in the face. The Flyers won the faceoff but couldn't clear the zone, and Ribeiro ended up with the puck along the wall on the left side. He sent a pass across to Ekman-Larsson, who made a beautiful move to drag the puck around Talbot, enter the right circle and fire a hard wrister that Mason got his glove on but couldn't stop.
"What a play by Oliver," Doan said. "He's probably one of the best-kept secrets in the entire League. He's a special player."
Greiss was special in his own right. Starting in place of Mike Smith, who played Thursday, Greiss said he knew he had to be strong early but had to do so without a normal game-day routine. Because of the back-to-back situation and the Coyotes not arriving at their hotel in Philadelphia until 2 a.m., no one was at the rink until game time.
"I felt pretty good," he said. "It was a little difficult because it's back-to-back, no pregame skate. But I felt good."
He said he showed his teammates exactly what he's capable of doing.
"[The trust] is going to build through the season," Greiss said. "[Tippett] is right, you have to build the trust. I have to show I can play and get the confidence of the guys."
Greiss' best stop came 2:01 into the game, after Mark Streit's long pass got through to Lecavalier along the right wall in the Phoenix end, and Lecavalier found Brayden Schenn with a step on his man as he drove to the net. Greiss got his right pad on the shot.
Moments later, Phoenix scored the game's first goal. Derek Morris held a loose puck in at the Philadelphia blue line along the wall on the right side and floated a shot on goal that hit Klinkhammer's shoulder and dropped low between Mason's skates at 2:41 for his first goal of the season.
After Ekman-Larsson put the Coyotes ahead, the Flyers short-circuited their comeback, taking two penalties and not taking advantage of their own chance when the Coyotes' Rostislav Klesla was called for boarding at 6:54. Philadelphia went 0-for-4 with the man-advantage and is 0-for-11 in the past three games.
"We had some good looks but we're not desperate enough around the net for me," Berube said. "We don't have enough traffic at the net getting second and third opportunities. We need to get some greasy goals."
Despite the loss and quick turnaround, Flyers captain Claude Giroux said he could see some positives.
"Guys were on the same page, even when two guys went down guys stepped it up," he said. "We put a lot of pressure on them. Their goalie played well but we're starting to see the pictures a little more. Obviously having a loss, it's frustrating, but it's a long season and I really feel we're getting better every day."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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