GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zybnek Michalek's first goal in two seasons proved to be the game-winner Saturday, but the work that he and fellow defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson did while shadowing the Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby line was the game-changer.
Michalek's second-period goal gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead in their 3-1 victory over the Penguins before a season-high 17,362 at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday, when NHL leading scorer Crosby had only two shots -- and no points -- on 25 shifts. He has 27 goals and 75 points this season.
"It's a whole team effort," Michalek said. "We just wanted to keep it simple, spend as much time in their zone, get the puck deep. When they don't get offensive zone time, they don't get the chances."
Michalek's goal 10:50 of the second period was his first since March 5, 2012 -- a span of 83 games -- when he was in the second of two seasons with the Penguins. That goal came against Phoenix.
"It definitely felt good," Michalek said. "Hopefully I don't have to wait that long for the next goal. I didn't even know if I scored or somebody tipped it in. I was just trying to get it past the first guy and get it on net."
Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin cut the score to 2-1 when he scored his 16th goal of the season with five minutes left in the second period, but that was the last shot on goal for the Penguins until midway through the third period.
Goaltender Mike Smith, who sat out the last two games, made 23 saves for the Coyotes (26-19-10). Smith started quickly, making a sprawling save on a point-blank shot by Coyotes center Brian Gibbons early in the first period.
Phoenix lost to Buffalo, the team with the fewest points in the league, at home Thursday.
"It was a great bounce-back game, one that everyone had a part in," Smith said. "You just want to come in and play well after you have some time off. Kind of calm down your team a little bit. Plus there was some added motivation to play against the top team."
Eastern Conference leader Pittsburgh (38-15-2) lost for the first time in 10 games against the Pacific Division this season.
"I thought we had some good chances," Crosby said. "Smith made some saves and we didn't capitalize on a few good ones. They played a pretty tight game."
Crosby's linemates, wingers Chris Kunitz and Tanner Glass, had one shot combined. Kunitz also has 27 goals this season.
"It's a good challenge for me and 'Z' and for everybody on the team," Ekman-Larsson said. "I think we did a very good job all night. It was fun. We know we are going to give up changes. Just try to play hard against him and play him close."
"Ollie was all-world there, that's an unbelievable game by him," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Forward Radim Vrbata scored his 13th goal on a two-on-one break for a 3-1 lead four minutes into the third period as the Coyotes won for the third time in five games.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves for Pittsburgh.
"I think the last two games are indicative of the type of games we are going to play," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They're tight games, they're tough games. There weren't a lot of chances for us. We expect these games to be like that. That's the game we have to be able to play."
Coyotes center Mike Ribeiro scored his 200th career goal on a wrist shot from the top of the left circle at 12:42 of the first period, six seconds after a Coyotes power play elapsed but before the Penguins had a chance to regroup. Coyotes center Antoine Vermette had an assist, extending his point-streak to a career-high seven games.
Michalek hit the crossbar in the first minute of the second period before scoring on a slap shot from the blue line midway through the period. Ekman-Larsson made a cross-ice pass to Michalek after just keeping a pass from Ribeiro in the attacking zone.
Malkin scored from the left side of the net after finding himself open following a pass from right winger James Neal. Malkin started the play along the boards behind the net, when he kicked the puck forward to himself before getting it to left winger Jussi Jokinen.
NOTES: Pittsburgh played the second game of its two-game "mother's trip" Saturday, with the mothers of players, coaches and support staff accompanying the team. The Penguins won the first game 4-1 in Los Angeles on Thursday. ... The Coyotes were 18-4-3 in February in the last two seasons. ... Because of the unbalanced schedule and a strike-shortened season, the Penguins played their first game in Phoenix since Nov. 6, 2010, when they posted a 4-3, shootout victory. ... The Penguins faced their fourth straight Olympic goaltender in Coyotes G Mike Smith after losing to Dallas Stars G Keri Lehtonen (Finland) and beating Buffalo Sabres G Ryan Miller (U.S) and Los Angeles Kings G Jonathan Quick (U.S.). Smith will represent Canada.