Smith improves, but Coyotes' offense stalls in loss to Wild
The Arizona Coyotes' 2014-15 season is taking on a defining characteristic of the season before it. When one problem is solved, another crops up.
Following three subpar efforts in goal, Mike Smith finally got his game in order on Thursday against the Minnesota Wild with 27 saves. Unfortunately for Smith, the Coyotes' offense went AWOL in a 2-0 loss at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Arizona went 0-1-1 on its quick trip to the Central Time Zone and has lost three straight overall.
"I was hoping for a shutout," Smith said. "It was better. The outcome was disappointing but I definitely felt like we were in the hockey game at least so that was a positive coming out of that hockey game."
Darcy Kuemper made 26 saves for his third shutout of the season, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon had two assists to lead the Wild, which scored both of its goals in the second period off deflections on which Smith had no chance.
"We still had a lot of guys try real hard. We just have to find a way to score," coach Dave Tippett said. "I thought (Mike) was very good. We didn't give him any support with goals. He made some big saves for us. I thought he came back and played a real strong game for us."
Kuemper has been strong all season for Minnesota. He has allowed just two goals in four starts, and has all three of Minnesota's victories this season. It's an ironic twist since the Wild's biggest question mark entering this season was goaltending.
"What I really liked was just how he's following the play," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I just thought he was very involved in the game, and obviously he got rewarded for it."
Forward Charlie Coyle opened the scoring with his second goal of the season, redirecting Jason Pominville's shot from the top of the circles while moving across the top of the crease. Pominville made it 2-0 less than four minutes later on a shot that deflected off Arizona defenseman Zbynek Michalek's pants.
Smith stonewalled Zach Parise on a point-blank shot a minute and a half into the second, then smothered Parise's wrist shot from the left circle at the end of that shift.
Arizona appeared to cut its deficit in half early in the third period when Kyle Chipchura slipped a shot past Kuemper, but B.J. Crombeen was in the crease, and the goal was disallowed due to incidental contact.
"I haven't looked at it yet but it looked like he went in the crease," Tippett said. "They were pretty definitive on it. I'll have to get a look at it, but it's one of those things that you just have to deal with and move on."
Minnesota's power play woes continued, as the Wild went 0-for-3 to fall to 0-for-19 to start the season. But the Wild's penalty-killing unit maintained its strong play, blanking Arizona's second-ranked power play on two chances. Minnesota has killed 14 of 15 penalties this season.
The Coyotes dictated the pace through much of the first period but the goalies kept it scoreless, which was a switch for Arizona. The Coyotes had allowed 10 first-period goals coming in.
"It was nice just to get out of the first period and not have the light come on behind me," Smith said. "It's been a while since that happened."
The Coyotes played the game without center Martin Hanzal, who did not make the trip due to a lower body injury suffered on Saturday against St. Louis. Tippett said Hanzal may skate on Friday although the team will not practice.
Coyotes right wing David Moss left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury after blocking a shot and didn't return. He is listed as day to day.
The Coyotes host the Florida Panthers on Saturday at Gila River Arena.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.