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‘Yotes Notes: Smith struggles, as Phoenix falls in big game to Minnesota

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was billed as a big game, which it was—the two teams sat tied for 8th in the Western Conference, each with 51 points.

Unfortunately, it was the Minnesota Wild that enjoyed the big victory, their fourth in a row; and a big performance from rookie Justin Fontaine. He recorded his first career hat trick, scoring the first goal of the game in the opening period before adding a pair of goals in the third, including an empty netter with 72 seconds remaining in the game.

The Coyotes now find themselves out of the playoffs, pushed out of the picture after a 4-1 loss in front of an announced crowd of 10,075 at Arena Thursday.

Mikkel Boedker accounted for the lone goal, scoring on the power play just over two minutes into the second period. It was his team-leading 14th goal of the season, capitalizing on the one mistake made by Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 39 of 40 shots.
Mike Smith, back in net after being given Tuesday night off, made 24 saves.

The Good:

Boedker continued his recent hot streak. His second period goal was his fourth in his past five games. He’s also registered a pair of assists, giving him six points during this current run. Boedker, it should also be mentioned, leads the team with eight second period goals.

After missing two straight games because of an upper body injury, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson returned to action. He had four shots on goal, playing 28 shifts for more than 26 minutes of ice time, the most of any one on the team. Ekman-Larsson had gotten hurt, getting hit from behind by Columbus’ Derek MacKenzie, who received a three-game suspension for the check.

The Bad:

It has not been a good start to the new year for Smith. He lost his third game in as many starts, in which he’s allowed nine total goals. Smith has not posted a win since December 21 at Ottawa, and has only three wins in his past 17 starts.

The Coyotes failed to get the puck past Backstrom in the first period despite peppering him with 15 shots, including one off the crossbar after a redirect in front by Lauri Korpikoski off a Derek Morris backhand attempt. The play elicited plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the crowd, but no goal.

Stat of the Game:

The 40 shots marked the fourth time this season the Coyotes posted 40 or more shots on the opposing goalie. They are 1-3 in such games.

He Said It:

“Frustrated we didn’t score more than one. I mean, come on. We got to get more than one. We have that many opportunities, we got to get more than one,” Shane Doan said. “Disappointed in the fact that we let an opportunity to try to separate ourselves from them; get away. Now we got to chase them. You never want to be doing that.”


– The Coyotes dropped to 2-3 on this season-long six-game homestand.

– Fontaine, before his three-goal outburst, had scored two goals in his past 20 games.

– Center Kyle Chipchura did not dress, missing his first game of the season with a lower body injury. He’s considered day-to-day.

– On this date 10 years ago, former Coyotes goalie Brian Boucher set the modern-day NHL record with his fifth consecutive shutout, blanking Minnesota.

Up next:

The Coyotes (21-13-9) close out the homestand with a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, January 11, which is apparently Howler’s birthday. The puck drops at 6 p.m. MST with pre-game coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.