Coyotes' frustration builds as home skid hits eight
GLENDALE -- The longest stretch of practice and recovery time until the All-Star break did not help the Coyotes break out of a funk that has left them winless at home since the second week of November.
Nashville scored on several chances from just front of the net to control early, and goaltender Pekke Rinne did the rest in the Predators' 5-1 victory Thursday at Gila River Arena.
The loss piled more frustration on a Coyotes' team that has lost eight straight home games, the longest streak since the franchise relocated from Winnipeg before the 1996-97 season.
"Frustrated. Disappointed," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said when asked about his team's mindset. "They care. They want to do better.
"The frustration continues to build, but until we turn that frustration into mental resolve and getting the job done, more frustration will pile up."
The Coyotes (10-16-3) had not played since a home loss to Boston last Saturday, and they attacked the time with two lighter recovery days followed by two heavy practice sessions. Video sessions. Ice time. It all seemed to help -- for a short while.
Center Antoine Vermette scored his seventh goal of the season on a power play opportunity off a crisp pass from Mikkel Boedker just four minutes, 11 seconds into the game against Rinne, one of the league's best goaltenders.
But the Coyotes took two penalties in the next five minutes, and momentum quickly swung to the Predators (19-7-2), who have won seven of their last nine games. Nashville tied it on the first power play and scored as time elapsed on the second, both times on redirected shots from point-blank range.
"It seems we have a shift where we have that breakdown, usually it's defending, and the puck goes in the net," Vermette said.
"We've been talking about winning your shift, and the next line goes after and does the same thing. But too many times ... when you allow five goals, there are too many breakdowns."
James Nash's goal for a 2-1 Nashville lead midway through the first period was the Coyotes' first third of the season in a nutshell. Mike Fisher, who scored the first goal, took a shot from the right boards that Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith stopped but could not control. The puck appeared to hit Nash, stationed in front of the net, in the lower body and ricocheted back into the net for the go-ahead goal.
Nashville took a 3-1 lead when Ryan Ellis took a cross-ice pass and poked a puck into a wide-open right side of the net late in the first period.
The Coyotes had a stretch of sustained pressure in the second half of the second period, when Keith Yandle and Lauri Korpikoski had strong scoring opportunities, but they could not get the puck past Rinne, who leads the league with 19 victories.
"It's one thing to take penalties when you can't kill them off," Tippett said. "Poor coverage on the third (goal) by our two defensemen. Then we are chasing the game, even though second period I thought we had some shifts that we were carrying momentum.
"It seems like every mistake we make right now ends up in the back of our net."
Nashville wrapped it up with two goals from close range in the first eight minutes of the third period.
The Coyotes have lost seven of their last eight games overall. Forward David Moss returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a hand injury, and the team still seems to be searching for the right mix.
"One-on-one battles that we are losing. That's unacceptable," Tippett said. "And we'll just keep trying to find players who can win those battles and get our team moving ahead. That's the frustrating part of it. There are areas we have to improve, and we will keep pounding away at those. We need our goaltending to try to improve to clean up some of the mistakes we are making."
Mike Smith was in net when the Coyotes beat Edmonton, 5-2, on Dec. 1, but that is his only victory in his last 11 decisions, when he is 1-8-2.
As difficult as this stretch has been, forward Sam Gagner said it is critical not to fall into the "not-again" mindset
"I think it is important to fight that line of thinking," Gagner said. "The moment you start to have that attitude where you think every mistake is going in your net or you are not going to be get bounces, you're toast. I think it is really important to stay positive and go after games and focus on the process and know that if you do that, things are going to turn out."