The Phoenix Coyotes (15-11-3) came into their third matchup of the year against the Anaheim Ducks (8-16-5) on much needed three days rest after facing a string of tough opponents early in December. The Coyotes were looking to avoid their longest losing streak of the season Wednesday after their previous two games ended in blowouts against both the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings.
Penalties were a problem for the Coyotes all night and the penalty kill that was once one of the best in the league has taken an enormous drop off. In their 2-4-0 stretch the Coyotes have let their opponents go 9-20 on the power play. The Coyotes would find themselves in the sin bin three times in the first period alone, really stifling any real chances at gaining momentum early.
The Ducks would go up 1-0 on a goal from the newly acquired Rod Pelley, who came from New Jersey in a trade December 12. The Coyotes have struggled mightily when their opponent scores first. With Wednesdays loss the Coyotes are now just 2-11 when their opponent gets on the scoreboard first.
The penalty kill unit would continue to struggle against the Ducks, giving up another goal early in the second period. Niklas Hagman would put in the goal on the man-advantage and would find the net again later in the period as well.
The highlight of the period, and really the game, for the Coyotes came when when Ray Whitney found Martin Hanzal behind the defense with a pretty pass and Hanzal put the puck past Jonas Hiller for a rare power play goal. The goal is only the 11th of the season for the Coyotes special team unit and a 11.9% on the power play is the worst in the NHL. The Coyotes seemed to dominate the second period but the Ducks capitalized on all of the Coyotes defensive collapses, sending the Coyotes to the locker room trailing 3-1.
Coyote fans would not have much to cheer about in the third period. The Ducks technically did not score on the power play, but an early third period goal by Kyle Palmieri just seconds after the man-advantage expired was the final dagger for the Coyotes Wednesday. As the final buzzer rang the scoreboard would read Ducks 4, Coyotes 1. The Coyotes lead the season series 2-1.
Mike Smith has taken the recent losses harder than anyone and has shouldered a lot of the blame. "You've got to try and work hard and get out of it," Smith said. "This last week hasn't been very good. So I've got to find a way to get out of this funk and get back to the way I was playing before." With the loss Wednesday Smith is now 1-4-0 in his last five starts and has given up four goals in all of those games.