The clock struck midnight on the Phoenix Coyotes' Cinderella home-ice run as they lost in regulation for the first time this season.
Shoddy defense, poor discipline and an ineffective penalty kill doomed the Coyotes to their first home regulation loss of the season.
These issues are nothing new to the Coyotes, but they have been able to overcome them in the past. By hook or by crook, Phoenix won games where they were outshot, outworked, outplayed or all of the above. A dangerous way to play that finally caught up to them.
The Coyotes have found ways to win this season, despite the above flaws, that signal an abandonment of the typical Dave Tippett style of strong defense and solid discipline. Saturday night, the Coyotes could not overcome the flaws they've won in spite of earlier this season.
As is often the case, success on special teams is critical and game-deciding. The Coyotes failed to score on four power play attempts, including three in the first period. Anaheim entered Saturday with the League's worst road power play, but that unit came up big scoring two goals.
"We didn't cover open men tonight," coach Tippett said. "(We) didn't win enough battles. You get into battles, your PK's gotta win puck battles. We just didn't."
Mike Smith was pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots through two periods. Smith did not play as poorly as his numbers indicate, as defensive breakdowns led to several high quality scoring chances for the Ducks.
Phoenix started off strong, controlling play and getting the first eight shots of the game. But, hockey can be a cruel game; like life, it's not always fair.
It started with a lower-body injury to Martin Hanzal causing him to leave the game in the first period after playing only 2:09.
"Marty is our most important forward." Shane Doan said. "He makes everything go for us."
He would be missed.
Anaheim drew first blood, on the power play, despite being badly outshot. A cool, calm and collected Cam Fowler found a wide-open Penner, mere feet from the Coyotes net for an easy goal. The defenseman in the area, Derek Morris, had his stick tied up with Corey Perry and could not shake it free in time to contest Penner's shot.
"I thought we started well. We needed to get something there. The way that goes, we jumped out and I think had four or five pretty good opportunities and then they get one opportunity real quick on the power play and then it's in the net. So then you're chasing the game." Tippett said.
An unfortunate twist of fate for the Coyotes gave Anaheim's Emerson Etem a penalty shot with a chance to open up a multi-goal lead. David Rundblad's stick shattered attempting a slap shot and Etem glided down the ice all alone before a stick-less Rundblad grabbed the Ducks forward, drawing a penalty shot. Smith closed his five-hole to make the save on Etem's backhand shot. Smith has faced seven penalty shots in his career and has saved six of them.
Phoenix's euphoria was short lived as Anaheim regained the lead 36 seconds later on Penner's second goal of the night. The 31-year-old elected to shoot on the 2-on-1, beating Smith with a wrist shot glove side.
Perry gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead streaking down the left side of the ice and around a fallen Michael Stone before beating Smith.
A controversial interference call on Paul Bissonnette put Anaheim on the power play yet again. The once dreadful PP unit found its second goal of the game, this one by Sami Vatanen. Oliver Ekman-Larsson overcommitted to the puck and left Mathieu Perreault alone. With only Stone in his way, Perreault passed the puck over to Vatanen who gave the Ducks a three-goal lead.
Doan cut Anaheim's lead to two, deflecting an Ekman-Larsson point shot past Hiller for his 11th goal of the season.
Ultimately, the Coyotes could never get that third goal, even with over a minute on 6-on-5 time with an empty net.
With the loss, the Coyotes fall to fourth in the Pacific Division with a record of 14-5-4.
- Anaheim's perspective
- Phoenix is now 9-1-2 on home ice this season.
- With Hanzal out, David Moss took a couple cracks at center.
- Doan's assist on the Ribeiro goal extended his point streak to eight games.
- Perry played in his 600th NHL game.
- Attendance: 13,490
Our Three Stars of the Game
2. Dustin Penner: A pair of goals for the player known as "Pancakes"
3. Shane Doan: Two points and extended his point streak to eight games.