Coyotes regress to their mean in listless loss to Senators

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The infant stages of Saturday’s game were great for the Coyotes. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had just been named to his first NHL All-Star Game and Mikkel Boedker was showing off his skills again as Arizona grabbed an early lead off his individual brilliance from the right wing.

The rest of the game? Well, that was the problem.

That’s when the Coyotes regressed back to team the league stats say they are — the second worst in 5-on-5 play (0.67 goals for/against ratio) and the worst on the penalty kill (74.6 percent).

Milan Michalek (Zbynek’s brother) banged in a rebound to tie the game at the 7:08 mark of the first period on Ottawa’s first power play. Former Coyotes Kyle Turris circled the net to set up Clarke MacArthur for the go-ahead goal six minutes later. Then, moments after Coyotes defenseman Brandon Gormley narrowly missed tying the game on a shot that hit the post and skirted the entire length of the goal line, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman took advantage of a Keith Yandle turnover and plenty of room in the slot to knock in an insurance goal midway through the second period as the Senators posted a surprisingly easy 5-1 win at Gila River Arena. 

"We’re not a very good defending team right now," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett in a quote that could have been pulled from a dozen other games this season. "We’ve just got to be a better defending team if we’re going to be competitive, night in and night out."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan must have dropped plenty of fudge-bombs in a game in which he was wearing a microphone. Beyond the first few minutes, the Coyotes were a poor possession team, a poor puck-management team and their shot selection was passive, with little traffic or movement going toward Senators goaltender Craig Anderson. 

One game after killing off all seven power-play opportunities against Winnipeg, the Coyotes were back to being a train wreck on the penalty kill. Ottawa was 0-for-its-last-29 on the power play entering the game. The Senators hadn’t scored a power-play goal since Dec. 28 against Anaheim — a stretch of eight games.

No matter.

Senators 5, Coyotes 1

Ottawa produced its second power-play goal of the night when Cody Ceci snapped a feed from Erik Karlsson between a sliding Mike Smith and the post for a 4-1 lead just 1:26 into the third period. Meanwhile, the Coyotes went 0-for-4 on the power play.

"It’s like our game right now, it’s up and down," Ekman-Larsson said. "One game we play good on the PK and the PP and the next game we’re not even close. We have to step it up and do something about it." 

Smith has allowed four or more goals in 12 of his 26 starts this season, but if you watched Saturday’s game, you knew this was more about the team in front of him than Smith — just like Tuesday against St. Louis.

"Certainly everybody would like to see more saves but I’d like to see more NHL plays get made," Tippett said. "There’s some stuff that is happening in front of him that is unacceptable. You shouldn’t pile on the goalie." 

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