Well that wasn't pretty. The Phoenix Coyotes don't exactly have a lot of success in Eastern Canada, as they extended another visiting losing streak dating to the late 90s by dropping tonight's game to the Ottawa Senators by a final score of 5-2. Alexei Kovalev, off to one of the worst starts of his career, decided to break out of his funk in a big way by netting 2 goals and adding a helper as the Coyotes just couldn't find a way to get their offense going. Unfortunately, things won't get much easier on Thursday when the Desert Dogs travel to Joe Louis Arena to face the Detroit Red Wings.
There's not much that I feel like writing about last night's game. The Coyotes came into the game not allowing a single goal in the first period of a game this year. Ottawa made sure to end that streak three times over, potting two goals in a nine second span about five minutes into the game and then adding a third tally later in the first. Jason Labarbera, making only his second start of the season got a bit unlucky on the third tally - a bouncing puck off the skate of Andrew Ebbett - but generally did not look sharp. Ilya Bryzgalov would relieve Labby to start the second and was solid for a period and a half as the Coyotes cut the deficit to 3-2 on goals by Sami Lepisto and Keith Yandle, but the Senators picked the pressure back up and scored two more to close the game out.
Puck management, as Tyson Nash would say, continued to be a problem for the Coyotes as clearing the puck from the defensive end and controlling it through the neutral zone continued to haunt the team. A few unfortunate penalties proved more than the tired-looking Coyotes could overcome on this second night of a back-to-back.
After the jump, how the team did on the Five For Winning items from the preview, our three stars, comment of the night and the official highlights...
Five For Winning:
Defense first: The Coyotes seem to keep burning themselves by getting the defense a little too involved on the offensive side of things. Sure we did well with that last year, but now I keep seeing dmen down below the goal line. It's led to several odd man rushes, forwards having to take penalties to keep goals from being scored and several goals. I like the defense to get involved at times, but do your job first and pick your spots offensively. There remained some odd man rushes, but they didn't prove as costly and the D-men provided both goals. All in all, this wasn't bad.
Power Play still stinks: Despite Derek Morris' goal on the PP last night we looked terrible the majority of the time. Twice Ray Whitney took penalties at the point because a pass was bungled or someone else tipped it out of the zone on a bad pass. This has got to be solved and fast. Not scoring on it is one thing, giving the other team legitimate scoring chances in unacceptable. Still stinks.
Shoot?: There were rumors that Radim Vrbata would be seeing time in the press box tonight as Shane Doan returns to the lineup, those have now been reported as false. However they came about though because while Vrbata hasn't been bad, but he has been invisible. There have been several times when he should have taken open shots but instead tried to make passes or got jammed up. Normally he's a fairly free shooting forward so not entirely sure what the issue is. Maybe a game out will do him good. Can't say I noticed much of a difference. There were a lot of shots into Ottawa defenders' shins and sticks. Passing needs to continue to get crisper and shots need to be taken more decisively.
The Captain Returns: Shane Doan returns to the lineup after serving his 3 game suspension for the Dan Sexton hit. Hopefully his energy will the the Coyotes some good as they could use a little extra spark. From his comments to the media he wasn't happy with sitting out and just wanted to get back to play. He had a little rust on him and took the initial penalty that resulted in Ottawa's first goal, but he did show a lot of energy and was throwing the body around. Sometimes this year, it seems as if Doan is too focused on laying those big checks, however, and is missing the simple plays and the little things that he needs to do to get some points on the board.
Backup the Backup: Jason LaBarbera will be in net for the Coyotes tonight on the second of the back-to-back games. The Coyotes played well in front of him last season and seemed to step things up when he was in for whatever reason. He may not be the starter, but he did show he was more than capable of winning a game when called upon. I don't actually think Labby was that bad as the first and third goals were unfortunate bounces, but in the midst of a 5 game in 8 night stretch, the team needed him to be rock solid and he wasn't. Truth be told, though, the team allowed 20 shots over the first 20 minutes...this loss was a team effort.
Our Three Stars:
1 - Alexei Kovalev - 2 goals and an assist...so nice of him to wake up tonight.
2 - Peter Regin - playing on a line with Kovalev that had failed to do anything, Regin added a pair of assists.
3 - Ilya Bryzgalov - he wasn't spectacular, but he came in and calmed things down for a while allowing the Coyotes to get back in the game. Quite frankly, the online feed was so bad that I have no idea if anyone really stood out, so I'm giving Ilya the love.
Comment of the Night:
-TimmyHate [after Ed Jovanovski took a weak tripping call early in the third period]
Official Game Highlights:
Coyotes have a day off tomorrow (bag skate anyone?) before the Red Wings on Thursday. We'll have our normal preview of what's to come and reports on the latest Coyotes trade prospects - I heard that GMDM offered the Rangers Scottie Upshall and Lee Stempniak for a bag of pucks and Wade Redden!!!