GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes miss Oliver Ekman-Larsson in every phase of the game, but Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Gila River Arena accentuated one area in particular.
Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, the Coyotes got the benefit of three straight Tampa Bay penalties, affording Arizona 5:04 of power-play time and 1:57 with a two-man advantage. Arizona managed six shots and had the Lightning scrambling, but goalie Ben Bishop stopped them all to record his franchise-record 15th shutout and fifth of the season.
“Obviously, when you get a 5-on-3 for two minutes you’re expecting to give your team a chance and put the puck in the back of the net,” said left wing Max Domi, who had a career-high eight shots in the game, including a good chance on the power play. “Bishop was pretty good and they kept us to the outside so it wasn’t good enough.”
Arizona’s power play went 0 for 6 in the game. That, as much as anything, was the reason Arizona’s three-game winning streak came to an end.
“We had two or three (chances) but the execution can always be a little better,” coach Dave Tippett said “No. 23 would help that a little bit. He’s a star player.”
Ekman-Larsson missed his fifth straight game with a bruised shoulder. He did accompany the Coyotes to San Jose for Sunday’s game and will be re-evaluated there, but Arizona already trails Colorado by nine points for the Western Conference’s final wild card berth.
Saturday’s game turned chippy early in the second period, beginning with Tampa’s three consecutive penalties. Coyotes rookie Anthony Duclair recorded his first NHL fight when he protected goalie Louis Domingue by slashing and high-sticking J.T. Brown before fighting him and then mocking Brown’s two-colored mini dreadlocks in the penalty box.
The Coyotes were also victimized by a poor call when Tampa’s Alex Killorn was called for slashing Coyotes center Martin Hanzal and Hanzal was given an embellishment penalty. On the play, Killorn’s stick caught Hanzal in the groin. Hanzal said his protective cup had shifted to the side, making the contact even worse.
“You get a stick there, it might look like embellishment but it ain’t embellishment,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.
Hanzal also received an embellishment penalty in Edmonton on March 12, giving him two in his last three games. That could result in a fine based on parameters outlined in Rule 64.3 of the NHL rule book. If the league does choose to fine him, the Coyotes will have a legitimate gripe.
“He hit me in the (genitals),” Hanzal said. “I don’t know how it is called diving. I finished my check. That was OK and he hit me in the (genitals). It’s a pretty sore spot so I just went down and he called that diving.”
The Coyotes’ loss overshadowed another strong performance from Domingue, who allowed just Ondrej Palat’s late first-period goal (Tampa scored an empty-net goal) when Arizona defenseman Nicklas Grossman cut across his line of vision.
Earlier this week, Coyotes GM Don Maloney said the final dozen games would be an audition for the backup role next season for Domingue as he learns to play behind Mike Smith.
“I’m curious to see how Louis responds to not playing every night,” Maloney said. “It’s going to be an equitable balance of time for the rest of this season but can he come off bench after sitting and still give us an A-game?
“This is absolutely a test to see if he can succeed in a backup role. We know Louis can be really good. I think he’ll be even better if doesn’t have to carry the load like he has the last three months.”
Domingue was strong again, turning aside 32 shots including a breakaway stop on Nikita Kucherov in the first period.
“It’s an audition every game whether you’ve been here for years or just one year,” Domingue said. “Every time I’m out there I’m trying to give 100 percent and give the team a chance to win.”
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