The Arizona Coyotes have been playing better of late, accumulating a 3-1-3 record in their past seven games, including a home and away two game series win against the Edmonton Oilers. But tonight, the Coyotes lost a close game to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3.
Mike Smith's success in the net has helped the team improve. His 4-1-2 record with a GAA of 2.57 and a respectable .928 save percentage has been excellent.
An area which they must improve upon is giving up so many shots on goal. The Coyotes have given up 40 or more shots on goal in four of their last six games, and that's not a formula for success.
First period power play display
The Coyotes scored one early power play goal, and one late extra man advantage tally, with Martin Hanzal collecting both scores. The Los Angeles Kings' Tyler Toffoli was called for tripping a breaking Max Domi down the left side at :09. It took Hanzal just six seconds to light the lamp for an Arizona 1-0 lead off of a shot by Radim Vrbata that Hanzal was able to tuck in from the left post area.
Toffoli was again called for tripping at :39, but his team mates were able to kill that one off.
At 12:25, the Kings tied the game when Dwight King was wide open on the right side of the net and made no mistake about it. The play was created when Coyotes' defenseman Alex Goligoski got cute with a behind the back pass which wound up giving the Kings a rush towards Mike Smith.
The Kings completely dominated positional play and out shot the Coyotes 14-5. But the resurgent Coyotes came back and at 18:32, Hanzal scored his second power play goal compliments of a Nick Shore holding penalty at 18:08. The shot was like a knuckleball and was not played well by goalie Peter Budaj.
The Arizona club survived a two man disadvantage when Radim Vrbata was called for hooking at 13:15, and Laurent Dauphin was whistled for the same infraction at 14:22. Even with Drew Doughty peppering Smith with three shots, the Coyotes held their one goal lead, 2-1.
Second period Kings goalie change
Apparently Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter saw enough of his goalie Budaj and pulled him in favor of backup Jeff Zatkoff.
Tobias Rieder had two semi-breakaways, with one being called a no-goal after review, and the other ending up in a penalty against Doughty for holding.
At the 6:51, mark the Coyotes had outshot the Kings 10-2 for the period. That didn't seem to phase the Kings as they scored at 10:13 with a backhander by tough guy Jordan Nolan that Smith was out of position to stop. The game was again tied at two a piece.
The Coyotes had 16 shots on goal while the Kings managed 10. Ryan White was called for tripping at 19:32, as the period ended. The Kings started the third period on the power play.
Third period was back and forth
The Kings power play was negated when Marian Gaborik was called for cross checking at the 1:00 mark. The play was tight by both teams as neither team wanted to allow the lead goal.
The Kings got just that when unpopular Nolan got his second goal of the night on an impossible angle near the trapezoid, which Smith had deflect off of him at 13:41.
The Coyotes answered right back when speedster Rieder broke in on a good lead pass from Goligoski to knot the score once again at 13:50. Now with just six minutes left in regulation the game tightened even more.
The break came at 15:55 when Trevor Lewis was the recipient of a turnover in the Arizona end by Max Domi and Smith made the original save, and left the rebound for Lewis. That goal was the go-ahead goal that L.A. had worked so hard to get. Turnovers were the Coyotes worst enemy in this game.
The Kings couldn't enjoy their lead long, as Jeff Carter was called for tripping at 16:08. One more power play for the home team to try and salvage this game. With some close chances they failed to score, and were forced to pull Smith for the extra attacker.
That also failed, as Hanzal was trying to stop an open net score by L.A., only to get called for hooking at 19:45. That sealed the win for the Kings, and Shane Doan didn't like the call and was cited with a 10 minute misconduct.
If that wasn't bad enough, allowing a player with such limited hockey talent as Jordan Nolan to beat you by giving up a fluke goal to him, really puts salt in the wound.
The Coyotes will have to recuperate from this loss as they play the resurgent Columbus Blue Jackets at home on Saturday, and then travel to Columbus for a rematch on Monday.