Lightning strikes early, often in win over Coyotes

The Coyotes’ Tuesday night flight to the Miami area had a symbolic feel to it. When they landed near the southernmost city in the southernmost state in the continental U.S., they found themselves sitting in the southernmost position in the Western Conference standings.

It may be early, but that position feels just.

Nikita Kucherov scored his first career NHL hat trick, Tyler Johnson had four assists and the Tampa Bay Lightning ran roughshod over the Coyotes, 7-3, on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa. The loss dropped Arizona into the conference basement, all by itself, with seven points.

The seven goals allowed marked a season-worst for the Coyotes, but it was the third time the team has allowed at least six goals in its first eight games. All of those came with Mike Smith in the net.

"It’s a whole group, not Mike," coach Dave Tippett told FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh when asked about Smith’s teetering confidence. "Whole group."

There was no arguing that point on Tuesday. While Smith gave up a soft goal in the third period, it was Tampa’s sixth. By then, everyone knew the outcome. Smith was pulled in favor of Devan Dubnyk, but it felt like a mercy pulling. The reason?

The Coyotes were atrocious in their own end and atrocious managing the puck. Tampa’s superior speed created a deadly combination and bucket loads of scoring chances.

"Just a lot of poor decisions with the puck and not executing at the level we need to," Tippett said. "Simple as that."

Lightning 7, Coyotes 3

On the first goal, Coyotes wing Lauri Korpikoski lost the puck along the boards and Kucherov was unmarked in front of the net to redirect Radko Gudas’ shot from the point. 

On the second goal, Tampa forward Valtteri Filppula collected the rebound of Steven Stamkos’ shot and buried it with two men creating traffic in front of Smith. 

On the third Tampa goal, the Coyotes committed another turnover at the Lightning blue line, and Kucherov beat defenseman Connor Murphy to a rebound. 

On the fourth goal, Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (minus-four) centered a beautiful feed to Tampa’s Brian Boyle at the hash mark and Boyle gladly buried it just 1:20 after Shane Doan had scored his first goal of the season to provide a glimmer of hope for the Coyotes.

And so on. And so on. And so on.

"We got three (goals) 5-on-5. That should be enough," Doan told Walsh. "We should be better in our zone and give ourselves a chance."

It would also help the Coyotes to get off to better starts. Arizona has allowed the first goal in seven of eight games this season, and it has been outscored 12-5 in the first period.

The Coyotes have led in only two games this season, for a total of 47:54. 

"Everyone’s a better team when they have the lead," Doan said. "We just weren’t good enough. It’s embarrassing."

The Coyotes continue this four-game road trip on Thursday in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers — one of three teams they’ve beaten this season.

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