Mike Smith of 2014-15 has been either red hot or ice cold. There's been no in between. Tonight he was red hot for the Arizona Coyotes. Unfortunately, Cam Ward was white hot for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Though the Coyotes overcame a slow start to the first period and forced a shootout, they proved unable to beat Ward in the extra time, and fell 2-1 to the Hurricanes Thursday night.
This game looked like it was going to be ugly early on. At just 1:03 of the first period, Carolina defenseman Ron Hainsey took a shot that Victor Rask just manage to tip through Smith. Rask was screening on the initial shot, which probably prevented Smith from squaring it up, and the Coyotes were down 1-0 on just the second shot of the game.
Instead of folding, Smith and the Coyotes rebounded.
At 6:38 of the first period, Keith Yandle went behind the net and found David Moss in the soft spot between four Carolina defenders. Moss, snake-bitten all season, finally managed to score his first goal of the year, and Arizona tied the game.
The good work that Arizona had done to tie the game would nearly come undone just a few minutes later, as Lauri Korpikoski simultaneously high-sticked and tripped up Ryan Murphy of Carolina. Murphy would lose a couple of teeth on the play, and would be unable to put any weight on one of his legs. As a result, Carolina received a four-minute power play. But the recently exemplary penalty kill managed to keep Carolina off the scoreboard, and took the 1-1 tie into intermission.
Both goaltenders settled into their games in the second period, when it became obvious why both teams were in the middle of the Connor McDavid hunt. Carolina slowly tilted the ice in their favor, but were unable to generate any serious scoring chances on Smith. The second was characterized with a significant amount of neutral zone play, punctuated only by a Smith delay of game penalty.
The third period followed much of the same script as the second, though Arizona generated a couple of good scoring chances in the waning minutes of the frame.
Overtime was an entirely different story however. Smith had to stop five shots in five minutes, including a dandy of a save on Justin Faulk across his crease with 1:40 to go in OT.
In the shootout, bad luck would do the Coyotes in. Lucas Lessio successfully drew Ward out of his crease, but hit the post when he attempted to tuck it in on the gaping net. Elias Lindholm would promptly score for Carolina next, and that would be the difference as the Hurricanes won the shootout 1-0 and the game 2-1.
Our Three Stars
- 3rd Star - David Moss - With all the bad luck Moss has had this year, the forward finally managed to end his scoring drought while responding to an early goal by Carolina before the game could get out of hand.
- 2nd Star - Cam Ward - Ward was excellent for the Hurricanes tonight, stopping 28-of-29 Arizona shots while not allowing a single shootout goal.
- 1st Star - Mike Smith - Smith stopped 39-of-40 shots for a .976 save percentage. He did everything in his power to give the Coyotes a win.
- For the Carolina perspective, check out Canes Country.
- Martin Hanzal remained scratched for this game, so Alexandre Bolduc suited up for the first time this season. He played 11:43 and went 5-for-6 in the faceoff circle.
- Arizona was once again perfect on the penalty kill with a 4-for-4 performance. They did not receive any power play opportunities.
- The Coyotes tied the Hurricanes in even-strength possession at 49 Corsi events apiece. But due to the lack of power play chances, Arizona would lose the overall battle 68-56.
- Antoine Vermette took more faceoffs than anyone else in the game. He won 13-of-17.
- Attendance: 12,649.
Arizona will play the Detroit Red Wings for the first time this season at Gila River Arena. The house is likely going to be rocking, with a near capacity crowd. Puck drop is at 6 p.m. Arizona time.