On Monday night, the Coyotes lost a whole lot more than just a game against the New York Rangers.
After leading for a majority of the contest, Mike Smith took an unfortunate fall backwards. Nothing seemed amiss on the play, it was a basic scrum in front of the net, but in sickening fashion, his left leg buckled underneath him as the rest of his body flew towards the goal.
Being optimistic about the point the Coyotes earned last night will only lessen the sting so much, should Smith’s injury prove to be significant. For what it’s worth, the injury certainly did not look promising from the moment it happened, reminiscent of the snapped ankle San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a few years ago that ultimately changed baseball’s home-plate collision rule.
The loss of Smith just added injury to insult. Leading 2-0 at the end of the first period, and 3-2 after the second, it was two points the Coyotes should have locked up.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson got the scoring going early with a power play goal not five minutes into the game against one of the league’s premier goaltenders in Henrik Lundqvist. Earning his fifth goal of the year later in the period was Jeff Halpern, staking the ‘Yotes to an early 2-0 advantage.
After two tough luck goals in the second period that took Ranger bounces, Kyle Chipchura of all people scored his third goal of the season to put Phoenix ahead…sort of. Streaking down the left sideline, Chipchura flung the puck towards the net in hopes of gaining his second assist of the game, but when a Ranger defender stuck his stick out in hope of deflecting the pass, he did just that—yet it went between the wickets of Lundqvist, resulting in a goal for the rare-scoring center.
It was on Opening Night that Chipchura scored his first goal of the season against these very same Rangers and seemed destined to have a decent year in the goal-scoring column. Fast-forward nearly half a calendar year, and Chipchura was scoring just his third goal of the season on a deflection.
After goaltender Mike Smith was knocked out with his obvious lower-body injury halfway through the third period, Thomas Greiss was the man to take over and an attempt to virtually earn a “save.” He could not preserve the lead, as Dan Girardi punched home the tying goal with just 3:28 remaining in regulation. From there, the Coyotes were concerned about just retaining a point.
Not even two minutes into overtime had passed when another defenseman found the back of the net for the Rangers in Ryan McDonagh. Off a rebound, there was no one standing in his way as he tapped the game-winner home, sending the New York City crowd into a frenzy.
To make matters worse, the Dallas Stars picked up a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at home last night, to pull themselves within just one point of the Coyotes and the eighth and final playoff spot. No matter how close the gap is, without goalie Mike Smith, these final ten games may be the last the Coyotes play all year.
Tonight, Thomas Greiss will be in net as Phoenix travels over to Pittsburgh to meet the second-place team in the Eastern Conference. Dominating the league with a whopping 94 points, Sidney Crosby has a 15-point lead on his next closest counterpart in that department. Corralling the game’s premier player will be a challenge, as the Coyotes and Penguins clash at 4 PM tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center.
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Tags: Phoenix Coyotes