To win, teams must master three aspects of the game -- offense, defense and special teams.
The Phoenix Coyotes mustered enough offense to win Saturday's game, but the latter two elements doomed the Desert Dogs to a bitter defeat. Bitter because multi-goal leads used to mean sure victory. On Saturday, the Coyotes earned zero points in a 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers despite holding multiple two-goal leads.
A porous third period defense erased a strong offensive second period, while poor special teams play throughout hurt the Coyotes in more ways than one.
Wayne Simmonds' power play goal early in the third period tied the game and the Flyers would never look back. Philadelphia tacked on the game-winner and an empty net insurance marker before the night was through.
"They get a big power play goal late, really, that's the difference in the game," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "If we could have found a way to put the game out of reach (on the power play), maybe it's a different story."
Phoenix's power play struggles stretch beyond this game. They are 0 for their last 13 with the man advantage in the last four games, including going 0 for 4 on Saturday.
"Once we get a power play, the other team's got to know that the momentum is going to change...we have to make sure the other team is afraid of our power play and, right now, it doesn't seem like they're afraid of our power play," Mikkel Boedker said.
Coach Dave Tippett chalks up Phoenix's woes to "turnovers and not playing smart." He said the team needs to make both the easy and difficult plays in order to have success, because their margin for error is so small.
Tippett also characterized his team's play as inconsistent, starting with his goaltender. Mike Smith allowed four goals on 27 shots as his record fell to 15-10-8.
Inconsistency can be maddening as the Coyotes have had a tendency to play parts of games very well and others quite poorly.
Saturday, the start was very encouraging as the Coyotes began the game with a jolt of energy and created several quality scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Yotes, they were unable to head into the dressing room with a lead.
Phoenix was unable to convert on any of its three power play attempts in the opening period, once again losing the special teams battle.
The lack of offensive finish displayed in the first period was quickly replaced with a back-and-forth goal-scoring fest in the second period. Ironically, it all started with a save.
Smith opened the second period with a phenomenal save on Claude Giroux. Zac Rinaldo and Giroux came down the ice on a 2-on-1 before Rinaldo saucered a pass, cross-crease, for a Giroux one-timer. Smith went post-to-post to make the stop and it was a sign of good things to come for Phoenix.
The Coyotes' next shift resulted in their first goal of the game. Antoine Vermette patiently handled the puck behind the Flyers' net before finding Rob Klinkhammer in front for a tap-in goal.
Lauri Korpikoski ended his scoring drought with his fifth goal of the season, giving the Coyotes their first two-goal lead. Connor Murphy's shot rebounded off the mask of Steve Mason before Korpikoski tracked down the loose puck and smacked it into the net.
"It's nice to score a goal, it's been a while," Korpikoski said. The Finnish forward returned a couple weeks ago after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury.
Philadelphia called a timeout in an attempt to slow down the Coyotes' pace. Seventeen seconds after the timeout expired, the Flyers scored their first goal of the night as Scott Hartnell one-timed a Mark Streit pass past Smith.
The Coyotes would answer right back as Keith Yandle sprung Boedker on a breakaway for his 12th goal of the season. The goal set a new career-high for Boedker who scored 11 goals in a season twice before (2008-09 and 2011-12).
Down a pair of goals, the Broad Street Bullies did what the Broad Street Bullies do -- fight. Paul Bissonnette and Jay Rosehill dropped the mitts in what could only be categorized as a true big boy scrap. Each man landed a plethora of punches and earned an escort to the penalty box.
Just when the game appeared to settle down, the Flyers once again cut Phoenix's lead in half. Vincent Lecavalier chipped the puck from behind the net into the crease and Brayden Schenn swatted it into the net with his backhand to bring the Flyers within one.
Philadelphia evened the scored on a Simmonds goal with Martin Hanzal in the box for holding. Jakub Voracek threw the puck low and on net and Simmonds knocked in the rebound for his 14th of the season.
Deep in his own end, Yandle got his pocked picked by Voracek who stole the puck and beat Smith five-hole for Philadelphia's first lead of the game. It was a goal Smith would probably like to have back.
The Flyers dominated the third period and found the two goals they needed to gain control of the game. They cemented it with 30.9 seconds remaining.
Giroux shot the puck from the center ice red line into the Coyotes' vacated net to seal the 5-3 victory.
The Coyotes escaped the night still in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Phoenix is tied with Minnesota (with three games in hand) and two points ahead of Dallas for that spot.
If Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who missed Saturday's game with upper-body injury, misses significant time, it'll adversely affect the Yotes' playoff chances .
"Every team in this league would miss Oliver. He's one of the special ones," Doan said.
- Philadelphia's perspective.
- Advanced game stats.
- The Coyotes are now 14-5-3 when scoring first and 10-2-3 when leading after two periods this season.
- Doan felt good after playing his first game back and reported no problems.
- Korpikoski's second period goal was his first since Nov. 16.
- In a rare sight, the referees examined the curve of Brayden Schenn's stick before a third period face-off. The curve was deemed legal and play resumed.
- Attendance: 14,875
Our Three Stars of the Game
1. Jakub Voracek: A pair of points including the game-winning goal.
2. Mikkel Boedker: Two points including a goal that set a new career-high for him.
3. Connor Murphy: A pair of assists.
The Coyotes begin the back half of their six-game home stand on Tuesday against the Calgary Flames. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.