Coyotes can’t capitalize on chances in frustrating loss

Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier stops a point-blank shot from the Coyotes' Lauri Korpikoski for one of his 39 saves.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jonathan Bernier was the story of the night in Toronto’s fifth straight victory Monday at Jobing.com Arena. The Maple Leafs goalie made 39 saves to help the Leafs post their longest winning streak in seven years with a 4-2 decision.

But Bernier’s performance was no surprise to Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata.

"He made great saves, no question," the right wing said. "But me, personally, it looks like every goalie’s playing unbelievably lately."

Vrbata was the poster boy for the Coyotes’ offensive struggles Monday. He fired six shots on goal, missed three more and came away with zero points to extend his goal-less drought to 12 games.

Overall, Phoenix fired 41 shots on net and missed the target on an additional 21. When the Coyotes did create chances, Bernier was either there to stop them or had shooters put the puck right into his body to make life a little easier on the former L.A. Kings netminder.

When coupled with the club’s habitual turnovers, defensive-zone breakdowns and untimely penalties — you know, the ones that have defined this team this season — the end of a modest two-game winning streak was inevitable.

"There’s little things that have come back to haunt us off and on all year, and those continue to be areas of concern and areas we have to improve in," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

It didn’t help that Phoenix played the game without do-everything center Martin Hanzal, who missed the game with a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. That forced Tippett to juggle his lines throughout the game. It also doesn’€™t help that captain Shane Doan and defenseman Zbynek Michalek still aren’t up to full speed. But with a chance to pull within two points of idle Minnesota and Vancouver and end this mini-homestand with a perfect record, Phoenix couldn’t take advantage of a club that was just begging to be scored upon.

Toronto entered the game allowing a league-worst 36.3 shots per game, and the Leafs looked every bit that team with a giveaway total that was much higher than the official stat sheet read (six).

Yet while the Coyotes botched golden chance after golden chance, the Maple Leafs scored two goals in the final four minutes of the first period and another early in the second to grab a 3-0 lead.

There’s little things that have come back to haunt us off and on all year, and those continue to be areas of concern and areas we have to improve in.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett

"I don’t think it’s a step back. We did a lot of things right," Doan said. "We had opportunities that we didn’t bury. That’s the difference in the game."

Even with a three-goal advantage, Toronto couldn’t lock things down defensively. Phoenix mustered 29 shots over the final two periods but didn’t notch goal No. 2 until after the Leafs’ Nazem Kadri had pushed the margin to 4-1.

The loss dropped the Coyotes to 3-7 in the new year as they head out on a three-game road swing through western Canada against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

"We’ve got to continue to grind away," Tippett said. This is a critical time in our schedule."

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