While the goaltending over the past week has been strong, scoring eluded the Arizona Coyotes. After Mike Smith allowed one goal in his first two games back from stomach surgery, Louis Domingue came in right behind and stopped 33 of 34 shots Saturday at home against Tampa Bay. After Smith’s two victories, the Coyotes lack of scoring doomed Domingue.
Going forward, the duo of Smith and Domingue signals a positive step in the future. For the Coyotes to remain competitive, their collective effort needs to be complemented with scoring.
After the Coyotes were shut out 2-0 by the Tampa Bay Lightning before 14,183 in Gila River Arena Saturday night, that reality was difficult to accept. The white-wash was the fourth time the Coyotes were held scoreless this season. At the same time, the loss snapped a modest three-game Arizona streak, and essentially ended any hopes for gaining a Stanley Cup playoff spot.
After scoring only twice, plus an empty net, in a win over San Jose last Thursday night, the Coyotes’ inability to score in a timely manner did not off-set another solid Arizona effort between the pipes. While Domingue said he did not see the game-winner off the stick of Ondrej Palat less than 1-minute remaining in the first period, his stellar play clearly kept the Coyotes in the game.
“I’m sure (Domingue) would like to have that goal back,” said coach Dave Tippett. “But, he played well and gave us a chance to win. That’s what you want from your goalie.”
After the Bolts took that 1-0 lead, the Coyotes had ample opportunity to crack the armor of Ben Bishop, the Tampa goaltender. With two, two-man advantages in the second period, the Coyotes could not get the puck by Bishop, who recorded his fifth shut-out of the season, and his franchise-leading 15th career shut-out.
Power Play Failure
For the game, the Coyotes ended up 0-for-6 on the power play. To be fair, the injury to Oliver Ekman Larsson, out since March 9 with a bruised shoulder, clearly leaves the Coyotes literally short-handed. His strong play at the blue line, his ability to engineer and direct the power play and control the man-advantage situations from the right point, are all missed.
Coming into the contest, Arizona stood tied for third in the NHL at home with a 22.6 percentage with the man advantage.
“We had our chances on the power play,” said center Martin Hanzal. “When we didn’t score with those two-man opportunities, that was the breaking point. When you don’t score, it’s tough to win.”
If the Coyotes had difficulty scoring, there was a marked improvement in one critical dimension of their game. For most of the season, the Coyotes were woeful in killing penalties.
Coming into the game with Tampa, the team continued to show, at least statistically, they had difficulty keeping an opponent’s puck out of their net. The Coyotes remain next to last at home in the PK and tied for 24th overall. Yet, their ability to kill penalties in recent games helped to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Still, the lack of scoring at critical times was hard to take.
“We had a great chance with those 5-on-3s, and need to find ways to pucks on net,” said Max Domi, who led the Coyotes with eight shots on goal against Bishop. “When you go on the power play, it’s a privilege, but you have to be efficient. We were a little shy (Saturday).”
After Tippett went with Smith over the past two games, he turned to Domingue, who played as well against Tampa Bay as he did in any game this season. At that same time, Tippett saved Smith for Sunday night. That’s when the Coyotes take on San Jose in the Shark Tank. For now, Domingue said he was not concerned with the way the goalie scenario developed.
“It seems I audition for this job each year,” he said. “I give 100 percent every time I’m on the ice, and want to be in a position to give my team a chance to win.”
While Domingue did his job Saturday, and Smith set the bar with two consecutive wins since his return, the lack of scoring clearly prevented the Coyotes taking full advantage of some of their best goal tending of the season.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.