GLENDALE, Ariz. — Since Dave Tippett arrived in the Valley before the 2009-10 season, he’s emphasized one particular saying over and over again in the Phoenix Coyotes’ locker room: Every play counts.
Cliché as it might be, that mantra was typified Saturday night in his team’s back-and-forth contest with the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. Heading into the third period, very little separated the two squads, as each scored just a single goal through the first two frames.
That all changed, however, with one loose puck.
Just a little over three minutes into the third period, Hurricanes center Eric Staal won a draw to the right of Coyotes netminder Mike Smith. Untouched, Jeff Skinner skated in from the far boards and took the puck from around Staal’s legs before firing a wrist shot into the back of the net.
“It was laying at Eric’s feet, and I just tried to pull it out and put it on net,” Skinner said. “It found a way in. When you’re getting chances, that’s the way it goes. Sometimes it falls in for you and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Staal would add an empty net goal in the final minute on an assist from his brother, Jordan, as the Hurricanes stole one on the road by a final of 3-1.
With the loss, Phoenix fell to 8-2-1 against the Eastern Conference in 2013-14 and 3-1-1 against Carolina during Tippett’s tenure.
“It came down to one face-off and a loose puck battle that we lost,” Tippett said. “That ends up as the difference in the game. We had some good chances. We had some good chances to capitalize in the third, but we didn’t do it. It’s a disappointing way to finish these two games at home.”
It took the presence of one Paul to ignite the offensive capabilities of another Paul.
On a night where Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was honored in a pre-game ceremony for his All-Star season, it was Phoenix Coyotes fourth-line winger Paul Bissonnette who temporarily stole the show.
After a lifeless first four minutes of play in the opening period, Phoenix finally put a hint of pressure on Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters with back-to-back shots from the point by defensemen Connor Murphy and Keith Yandle.
On the ensuing face-off, the Hurricanes looked poised to take possession out of their own end, but veteran center Jeff Halpern poked the puck free from Tim Gleason and out to Murphy underneath the blue line. Despite playing in just his ninth career game, the rookie defenseman wisely fired the puck on net as Bissonnette came charging in on Peters. The shot bounced off of Bissonnette’s stick and in, as the 28-year-old netted his first tally since Nov. 19, 2011.
“Our fourth line has been going good and putting pucks at the net,” Bissonnette said. “Luckily, I beat my guy to the net and Murph made a great play to put it on my stick.”
Thursday night, the Coyotes were able to finally crack New York Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin to the tune of six goals after the 23-year-old put together a pretty impressive first period of hockey. Unfortunately, they were unable to duplicate that performance Saturday.
After yielding an early goal to Bissonnette, Peters, was virtually impenetrable. Phoenix put 38 shots on goal, including 27 in the final two periods, but the fourth-year pro was more than up for the task.
The Coyotes had plenty of chances to light the lamp, including a short-handed breakaway by Antoine Vermette at the end of the second and a three-shot sequence by Mike Ribeiro, Dave Moss and Zbynek Michalek in the final six minutes, but nothing came to fruition for the home side.
“I don’t know if they were doing anything in particular to keep us out of the front of the net,” Coyotes forward Rob Klinkhammer said. “We weren’t getting there like we should have maybe. We weren’t playing with that extra five or 10 percent that might have been enough. We just didn’t have it.”
Phoenix also didn’t do itself any favors, taking seven penalties over the final two periods.
“We took some penalties that took our momentum away,” said Bissonnette. “We got away from our game. They came with a pretty good split, two forwards hard. Our forwards weren’t really getting back and helping our defense. It’s tough to gain zone and get consistent pressure.”
He Said It:
“It’s critical before Christmas. We have to go and find a way to get points whether we have injured players or not. They’re not easy buildings to go in and play. We’ll need everyone to contribute if we expect to get points out of this trip.” — Dave Tippett on Coyotes’ upcoming four-game road trip
– – Mike Smith has allowed two goals or more in 15 straight games dating back to Oct. 29.
– – Captain Shane Doan missed his fourth straight game. Doan hasn’t missed more than three games in a season since the 2010-11 campaign.
– – Bissonnette’s first-period goal was his first at Jobing.com Arena since Jan. 2010 against the Islanders.
As mentioned above, Phoenix (18-9-5) is set to embark on one of its longest road trips of the season through eastern Canada and upstate New York. The team’s first stop is Tuesday night in Montreal against the Canadiens (20-11-3). Puck drops at 5:30 p.m. MST and can be heard on Arizona Sports 620.