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Phoenix Coyotes @ Toronto Maple Leafs recap: winter of discontent

Despite a strong 45 minutes, the Phoenix Coyotes could not come away with a victory, falling 2-1 in the shootout to Toronto.

Claus Andersen

The undoing of the Phoenix Coyotes against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday was their inability to play a final twenty minutes. The undoing of the Coyotes against the Toronto Maple Leafs was the inability to play a first twenty minutes.

Defensively, the Coyotes looked much improved from a week ago, and in this game the penalty kill managed to keep a clean sheet. Unfortunately, it took the team fifty-five minutes to score a goal of their own. Martin Hanzal managed to break his eight game pointless streak on a greasy wrap-around that slid underneath the stick of James Reimer, who played an excellent game when he needed to.

Toronto was the team that got on the board first. At 15:52 in the first period, Troy Bodie scored his first on a rebound that Mike Smith missed by sliding to his right too early. It was the only blemish on an otherwise great twenty-six save performance for Smitty, who has now allowed two goals or fewer in his past three starts.

Despite an excellent forty minutes in the second and third periods as well as a highly entertaining overtime period, most Coyotes fans are probably still fuming over the shootout. On the first Toronto opportunity, James van Riemsdyk took the puck in on Smith, driving him almost all the way into the goal. The league would clarify what occurred after the fact. From the NHL:

In the first round of the Coyotes/Maple Leafs shootout, video review was inconclusive in determining whether James van Riemsdyk's shot completely crossed the goal line. Therefore, the referee's call on the ice stands - good goal Toronto.

For fans watching however, none of this would be discernible, because there was no signal on the ice (though apparently the call of 'good goal' was communicated to the teams), and because there was no video replay angle which clearly showed where the puck was under Mike Smith. Although common sense suggests that the puck was completely over the line, suggests is not the same thing as definitive. The referee must have had a better angle than the cameras did, or that puck should not have been considered a good goal.

In any instance, even waving the goal off would not have guaranteed a Coyotes victory, but had that attempt not counted Joffrey Lupul's tally would have evened the shootout at one apiece thanks to a nifty goal by Mikkel Boedker, which would have extended the shootout by at least another round. Regardless, the Coyotes get a point without giving up two points to a conference opponent, and for that they can be happy.

The rest of the game though? Probably not.

Our Three Stars of the Game

3rd Star - Dion Phaneuf: Made several key defensive plays down the stretch that prevented the Coyotes from taking a lead.

2nd Star - Mike Smith: Smitty's rebound tour continues with another great performance tonight. Twenty-six saves included a few dandies in the first and third periods.

1st Star - James Reimer: Reimer had thirty-four saves in the game, with two more in the shootout. He's a big reason why the Coyotes couldn't win this one in regulation.

Paw Prints

· Derek Morris returned to action after missing time attending to the death of his father. Our condolences go out to Morris and his family.

· Rostislav Klesla also made his return to the NHL thanks to yet another injury to Zbynek Michalek. He had a solid game and recorded an assist on Martin Hanzal's goal.

· Speaking of Hanzal, the Czech center recorded his first point in eight games.

· Phoenix took only three penalties in this game, and Toronto took only two. Both of Toronto's minor coincided with Phoenix penalties, so the Coyotes never had a full two minute power play in this game.

· The third period and overtime were penalty free, and energy-wise the Coyotes played some of their best hockey in the past month.

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes will hope to build on this strong effort when they take on the Ottawa Senators this Saturday. The game begins at noon Arizona time, so be sure not to miss it in the middle of the day.