Kings center Jeff Carter (77), left wing Tanner Pearson (70) and center Tyler Toffoli (73) celebrate after a goal in the third period Wednesday against the Coyotes at Staples Center. The Kings won 4-0.
LOS ANGELES — Throughout the Coyotes’ playoff push, a sense of foreboding has shrouded the season finale against the Dallas Stars. The popular narrative was the Western Conference’s final playoff berth would ride on that one game.
The way Phoenix is playing right now, that matchup will be irrelevant.
The Coyotes dropped their third consecutive game — the first time that has happened since the first three games out of the Olympic break capped a four-game skid — and the schedule ticked off another date without any precious points in a 4-0 loss to the L.A. Kings on Wednesday at Staples Center.
There’s no guarantee that projected playoff-point cutoffs will prove correct, but the most common current cutoff has Western Conference teams needing 95 points to get in. Phoenix has 85 with five games left. If that projected cutoff proves accurate, the Coyotes would need to go 5-0. Anybody see that coming from a team that hasn’t won more than three in a row since early November?
The Stars now have two games in hand, are even in points and own the tiebreaker.
"It’s not an ideal situation, but you can’t worry about that," coach Dave Tippett said. "We talked yesterday, this is like a playoff series. After every game you just reset and get right back at it."
L.A. put the Coyotes in a quick hole when Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek’s clearing pass was intercepted just outside the blue line just over a minute into the game. Jeff Carter fed Tanner Pearson for his third goal of the season and second against the Coyotes this year.
Drew Doughty widened the lead to 2-0 on a second-period power play when his shot from the left circle slipped through a screen set up by Jeff Carter and past goalie Thomas Greiss.
But the most troubling aspect of Wednesday’s game was the utter lack of life Phoenix displayed. Yes, this was the second game of a back-to-back set, but that same scenario didn’t stop Winnipeg from jumping all over the Coyotes in Glendale the night before.
"I thought they just played a better game," center Martin Hanzal said. "They outcompeted us, outhit us, outplayed us today. It was as simple as that."
Two Phoenix power plays netted one shot on goal in the first two periods. At the second intermission, Phoenix had mustered a meager 12 shots on L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick, who faced just 17 shots all night — a season-low for the Coyotes.
"We couldn’t find a way to get to their net," defenseman Keith Yandle said. "They did a good job of blocking us out and keeping us from getting in the zone. On our power play, we didn’t do a good enough job getting pucks at the net, and that’s been the best part of our game."
Tippett joked before the game that his big-name offensive players could "jump in at any time" and add to the offense being produced by bottom-six forwards like Kyle Chipchura.
But Hanzal hasn’t scored since returning from an injury on March 15 (11 straight overall), Radim Vrbata has one goal in his last 12 games, Shane Doan has two goals in his last 14 games, Antoine Vermette has two goals in his last 15 games, Martin Erat has one goal in 12 games as a Coyote and Mike Ribeiro has one goal in his last 20 games.
That’s a lot of money for so little production.
"They had some opportunities but couldn’t finish," Tippett said. "I think Hanzal had two or three pretty good opportunities."
It’s too early to talk offseason, but the upcoming one is shaping up as one of change for the Coyotes — needed change that clearly must include an upgrade on offense.
The current cast doesn’t look like a playoff team. Just one month ago, general manager Don Maloney insisted the postseason would be the minimum requirement for this organization now that ownership has arrived.