Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
After coming up on the short end of a 2-1 shootout defeat Tuesday night, Coyotes fans have their fingers hovering over the panic button.
There was an unlimited number of opportunities for Phoenix to cash in and stave off the Dallas Stars, but ultimately, they could not score on Ondrej Pavelec in the shootout and would have to settle for just one point, opposed to two.
It was not as if the ‘Yotes did not come out playing extremely aggressive. They came out and posted a season-high 50 hits on the night, completely imposing their physical will on a tired Winnipeg Jets team. Additionally, they dominated the face-offs, winning them at a 2:1 ratio, 32-16. Leading the way was Antoine Vermette, who won an astounding 16 face-offs–as many as the entire Jets team!
As positive as the stats made the evening seem to be, there is still a bitter taste at the conclusion. Thomas Greiss allowed a first period goal to the Jets second-leading scorer, Andrew Ladd, putting themselves behind the eight-ball from the get go. That 1-0 deficit took hold into the end of the first period.
Coming out like a house of fire after the first intermission, it was Zbynek Michalek of all people who found the back of the net for his only his second goal of the entire season to knot the game at one. More stirring than Michalek punching one home is the fact that it took just 19 seconds to do so. Getting assists from Vermette and Mikkel Boedker extenuated just how well both of those men played, even in a losing effort.
Halfway through the third period, it seemed as if the stalemate the two teams had drawn to, would dissipate. Boedker carried the puck up the sideline with blazing speed, sifting through defenders as if they were traffic cones. Not one wanted to get in the way of the streaking maroon blur that had blown by them, leaving Boedker to take on Pavelec one-on-one from just inside the right point. As the broadcast mentioned, Boedker beat Pavelec, but he could not beat the post, as the puck slammed off his worst enemy and caromed back into play. The Coyotes final golden chance had slipped through their fingers.
Coach Dave Tippett decided that he wanted to shoot first come the shootout (a decision I’m admittedly not a fan of) portion of the contest. Hoping to re-create magic from earlier in the game, Boedker flew in on Pavelec to begin the vital game within a game, but he missed yet again. Radim Vrbata had similar unfortunate luck before Andrew Ladd reared his head once again; scoring the goal that won it for the Jets. It was on the shoulders of Antoine Vermette, who had an outstanding game, to try to salvage the contest, but he too heard the loud clang of the post and had to skate off the ice with just one point.
All the pessimism comes from the fact that Kari Lehtonen and the Dallas Stars blanked the Washington Capitals and the league’s fiercest scorer in Alex Ovechkin. Their victory makes it three in a row for the Stars, who have now systematically caught the Coyotes, and even though they are deadlocked at 85 points apiece, hold the advantage due to one more game on the schedule.
There will be no rest for the weary as the Coyotes only have six games remaining in their 2013-14 season. They now head to Los Angeles, where they will take on the Kings at 7:30 PM tomorrow in the Staples Center. With the Stars being idle, it becomes an ideal time to try to pick up some points as the season reaches its imminent conclusion.