apparently we fail at playing.
- Wins: 9
- losses: 9
- shootout wins: 2
- shootout losses: 1
- points: 21
Coyotes keep rolling on road with SO win over Leafs
Tuesday, 11.15.2011 / 11:53 PM
TORONTO — The weather may be nicer in Phoenix, but the Coyotes are just fine right where they are.
Dave Tippett’s club stretched its road win streak to 5 games with a 3-2 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.
Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in regulation and Patrick O’Sullivan notched the shootout winner. Mike Smith made 35 saves — plus another 2 in the shootout — to post his sixth win in 7 games.
Tippett praised his goaltender, who improved his record to 8-2-3 on the year.
“He’s really embraced the No. 1 goaltender role,” Tippett said. “Smitty has earned the confidence of the team. He’s been a very solid player for us a leader in the dressing room and his play has been as good as anybody in the League up to this point.”
Smith cited goaltending coach Sean Burke as a key factor in his strong start.
“Everyone knows goaltending is mental,” Smith said. “I know I have the physical ability to be a great goaltender in this League, but I’ve struggled with the mental aspect of it throughout my career. I have to find that consistency and Sean’s been very good for me. He’s a guy that played in this League and did very well. Now I’m fortunate to have him on my side.”
Smith’s heroics negated a spirited Toronto comeback in the third period that brought the Leafs back from a 2-0 deficit. Mike Komisarek got Toronto on the board early in the period with his first goal of the year, and Phil Kessel scored his League-leading 13th goal via the power play at 4:41 to tie the game and set the stage for a thrilling finish.
According to Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson, a patient approach keyed the rally.
“The important thing we talked about was we don’t want to go and try to tie the game in the first 4 or 5 minutes and yet we did by keeping things simple, not having the ‘D’ get caught pinching. You have 20 minutes and we were getting plenty of scoring chances in the second period and some shots, we needed a little more traffic and we got it — a little more patience with the puck in the offensive zone.”
After a slow start, Leafs goaltender Ben Scrivens starred late in the game, matching Smith save for save and sending the game to the shootout.
Wilson praised the youngster for keeping his composure.
“I was happy for Scrivs that he buckled down, he didn’t cave, then he came up with a lot of saves as the game went on,” Wilson said. “I think our team’s confidence in him grew as the game went on.”
For his part, Scrivens is getting acclimated to the NHL game, with a 2-2-1 record in the absence of injured number one goaltender James Reimer.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable and get a bit of confidence,” Scrivens said.
Doan opened the scoring just 1:54 into the game when his counterpart — Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf — made a costly mistake. Phaneuf fell at the Coyotes’ blue line and coughed up the puck, springing Mikkel Boedker and Doan on a 2-on-1 the other way. Doan fired Boedker’s feed past Scrivens for his first goal in 7 games.
Scrivens was shaky on the Coyotes’ second goal, as his giveaway behind the net eventually led to an Oliver Ekman-Larsson floater from the blue line that hit the twine at the 5:18 mark.
Wilson looked to spark his team in the second period, moving Matt Frattin up to the second line with Clarke MacArthur moving down to the third. While the Leafs did come on strong in the latter half of the period, few of their shots got through the tough Coyotes’ defense – most were either blocked or deflected off target. With a 2-0 lead, the Coyotes were content to relieve pressure by chipping the puck out or icing it.
Toronto’s bottom six forwards keyed the comeback early in the third period, as MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski were forced out of the game with injuries. Matthew Lombardi, David Steckel and Joey Crabb created pressure in the Coyotes’ zone, and Komisarek snuck into the slot to draw the Leafs within one at the 2:08 mark. Under a minute later, Mike Brown drew a cross-checking penalty from Martin Hanzal, setting the stage for Kessel’s tying goal on the power play off the rebound of a Nikolai Kulemin shot.
MacArthur suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return. Grabovski left with a lower body injury in the third after a neutral-zone collision with Hanzal. Wilson had no update on either player following the game.
Despite the loss and the injuries, Phaneuf emphasized the positives.
“I thought it was a real character job by us, especially when your bench gets shortened like that,” Phaneuf said. “We lost a few key guys. I thought we really did a good job to come back and get the point.”
The Coyotes’ recent road streak has been impressive, but it will be put to the test as the Eastern trip continues. Phoenix faces Philadelphia on Thursday, followed by games in Buffalo and Washington.