Coyotes’ third-period collapse has familiar, depressing ring

With Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Blues, the Coyotes have earned just one of a possible six points since the break.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some losses weigh more heavily than others. The Coyotes’ 4-2 loss to the Blues on Sunday was an iron safe crashing through the floorboards.

"We played so well for 40 (minutes). We were dominant, doing all the right things," forward Paul Bissonnette lamented. "We just got away from it, and it’s kind of been the story for the last few months here."

It’s been the story of the season. The Coyotes talk fervently of playing 60 consistent minutes. They talk earnestly of playing a simpler, smarter game. And then they get away those philosophies and all hell breaks loose, which makes you wonder, as the trade deadline approaches, if this group is even capable of consistent play.

"You knew they were going to push hard. We knew we were going to have to play hard," coach Dave Tippett said of a third period in which St. Louis scored four unanswered goals to break an eight-period drought. "Ultimately, we made a couple of mistakes and we could have used a couple saves."

Things looked so peachy through two periods. Following a frustrating two-game trip through Winnipeg and Denver, the Coyotes were water-tight defensively and goalie Mike Smith looked like he was on his way to his sixth straight strong start.

Bissonnette scored off a lucky bounce in the first period and Jeff Halpern redirected a perfect feed from Keith Yandle for a 2-0 lead after two periods, the latter of which was impressive.

"That’s the hardest someone has played us in the second period," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "They were all over us, and they won every race to the puck."

It didn’t last. It seemingly never does. The Coyotes made two poor decisions with the puck that ended up in the back of their net with the third period barely seven minutes old. 

Then Halpern got whistled for an iffy hooking penalty and the Blues cashed on Kevin Shattenkirk’s power play goal to take all the steam out of Arena on Shane Doan Garden Gnome night, making Ryan Miller a winner in his St. Louis debut.

The penalty obviously hurt, but so did a non-call on Yandle, who got hauled down in the offensive zone by Vladimir Tarasenko, allowing the Blues to go the other way for an insurance goal and a 4-2 lead.

"It sucks when there are there factors involved besides the two teams competing," Bissonnette said. "I won’t go much more into that, but it’s upsetting and frustrating."

It’s also upsetting and frustrating to watch the Coyotes re-enact the same sorry script on a nightly basis. Sunday’s loss prevented Phoenix from jumping into the final playoff spot in what is shaping up as a five-team battle for that one spot.

The loss certainly didn’t eliminate the Coyotes. There are 21 games left, and none of the five teams in that aforementioned race puts the fear of Gretzky in anybody. 

But the looks on the faces of the players and coaches suggested they are out of solutions to fix or words to describe what is ailing this club.

"It’s no different than any other loss," captain Shane Doan said when asked how the Coyotes move past such a crushing loss. "We’ve got one out of our first six points (out of the Olympic break). I think that’s a bigger deal."

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