Twenty-three days, three road games and an Olympic hockey tournament stood between home games for the Phoenix Coyotes. Those same three obstacles stood between the Coyotes and their last win, a home shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 7. Even with the latter two obstacles out of the way, the Coyotes are forced to wait at least two more nights to find that elusive 28th win.
Phoenix failed to capitalize on its home ice advantage, allowing four third period goals en route to its third post-Olympics loss. The Coyotes squandered a two-goal third period lead for their sixth loss of the season when leading after two periods.
Questionable officiating and poor play allowed the Coyotes to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
"You knew they were going to push hard, that's a team that hasn't scored in two games in two periods. You knew they were going to push hard, we knew we were going to have to play well, then we lost Marty (Hanzal). Ultimately we made a couple mistakes and we could have used a couple saves," coach Dave Tippett said.
The Blues came to town on Sunday night with a shiny new goaltender and power forward in tow. Ryan Miller and Steve Ott made their Blues debuts in a 4-2 win over the Coyotes, days after being traded from Buffalo in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a third-round pick in 2016.
"I was pretty anxious, pretty nervous all day. It's a new group of guys. You want to show them what you got. You want the chance to be there for them. I thought it was a pretty good game overall and I'm happy with getting the win," Miller told Blues reporters after the game.
The Coyotes controlled the pace of the game early on, but were dominated in the third period. They were outshot 11-5 and out scored 4-0.
"I don't know what's going on," Paul Bissonnette said. "It just seems like we get bored with playing simple and the right way and (the games) keep slipping away."
Miller recovered from two goals in the game's first half to make 23 saves in his Blues debut. Miller improved to 7-0-0 against the Coyotes in his career.
Mike Smith stopped the first 20 shots he faced, but stopped only six of the final 10 in a disastrous final period.
"If you look at the first two periods, I thought we were solid," Tippett said. "They pushed and we couldn't push hard enough back...your tempo is going to have to be good, you're going to have to execute, and you're going to need some saves. All the above didn't happen."
Phoenix's fourth line contributed a pair of goals for the only offense of the night for the home team. The unlikely duo of Jeff Halpern (150th career goal) and Bissonnette provided early offense but were held in check as the game progressed. Bissonnette's goal was his seventh point of the season, a career high.
The ability to open the scoring usually provides an advantage for any team, but especially defensively-minded teams like the Coyotes. However, the four-goal third period by the Blues ended Phoenix's streak of seven wins in its past eight games when scoring first.
The significance of Sunday's loss is not lost on a Coyotes team struggling to find consistency and wins while outside of the playoff picture.
"Statistically, we've got to win 14 of the next 21 games, so it's going to be tough," Bissonnette said. "Usually we're pretty good down the stretch, let's hope it works out."
Sunday's loss is a missed opportunity for the Coyotes who could have jumped into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a win.
The NHL trade deadline on Wednesday looms over a bubble team yet to find a win after the two-week Olympic break. The Coyotes may not have thought they were sellers but every loss increases that likelihood.
"You want to make sure come trade deadline that your team is making a push. We obviously have not come out of the Olympic break the way we wanted," Halpern said.
The veteran forward noted the importance of Tuesday's game, the final contest before Wednesday's trade deadline. Phoenix will try its luck against a Pacific Division team after six consecutive contests against Central Division opponents (1-4-1).
St. Louis hopes the win will help the team find its post-Olympics groove after being shutout in its first two games after the break.
- Blues' perspective
- Advanced game stats
- Keith Yandle had an assist for his 21st home point of the season, leading all Coyotes
- The Coyotes are now 17-3-3 when leading after two periods and 21-10-4 when scoring first this season.
- Despite scoring a goal, Bissonnette had less than five minutes of ice time.
- Attendance: 13,955