BOSTON — The Coyotes haven’t had much recent success against the Boston Bruins. Tuesday’s circumstances at TD Garden lengthened the odds even more.
The Coyotes were playing their third game in four nights at the end of five-game road trip. They were also playing it without their top two centers, Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal, and defenseman Connor Murphy. All three missed the game with lower-body injuries.
That combination necessitated a nearly perfect game and the Coyotes were far from perfect in a 6-0 loss that stretched Boston’s winning streak over Arizona to eight games. The win completed a Bruins’ season sweep, marked a season-high for goals by an Arizona opponent and handed the Coyotes their first shutout of the season.
“This will be a good lesson for our group,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We’re going to be in this situation again. It’s too easy to say ‘oh, we had nothing left. It was the end of a road trip.’
“That’s not good enough for us. We want to be better than that. Coming into a game like this you want to play a certain way. Tonight is a good shot of humble pie of how much more there is to do.”
The Coyotes finished the NHL’s version of a .500 road trip with a 2-2-1 record and will close out the month of October by hosting the Vancouver Canucks and former Coyote Radim Vrbata on Friday before getting five days off. A win on Friday would give Arizona a winning record this month — no small feat since the team will have played three sets of back-to-back games and seven of 11 games on the road.
“Coming up, we have only one game in eight or nine days so we can get some rest, get some practice time and hopefully win Friday,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. “It felt like a couple points we let slip away but we’ll take it and go home and hopefully get some good games and we have something to build on.”
The leg-weary Coyotes almost escaped the first period scoreless, but defenseman Stefan Elliott made a poor read on a pinch and red-hot Bruins center David Krejci converted a 2-on-1 with only Nicklas Grossmann defending to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 17:22 of the first period.
The goal extended Krejci’s point streak to eight (all eight games this season). Krejci entered the game tied for the NHL lead in points with 12. Elliott was a late addition to the lineup after Murphy was ruled out.
The Coyotes got some early push in the second period, but Boston widened its lead when all three Arizona forwards got caught deep in the Bruins zone. Shane Doan tried to get back on a Boston 3-on-2, but he couldn’t quite catch up. Defenseman Klas Dahlbeck got caught puck watching with two Bruins in front of goalie Mike Smith and Jimmy Hayes banged in a rebound for a 2-0 lead at the 6:51 mark.
Boston forward Joe Morrow put the game on ice when he beat Smith high to the glove side to give Boston a 3-0 lead after two periods on a shot Smith probably should have stopped.
Brett Connolly, Brad Marchand and Krejci added third-period goals to turn the game into a rout. After a hot start in the first three games, Smith has posted sub-.900 save percentages in six straight games. In those games, he has stopped just 143 of 166 shots for a .861 save percentage.
“We left him out to dry tonight,” Tippett said. “That wasn’t Mike tonight.”
Two of Smith’s last six games came on the back end of back-to-back sets in which he also played the first game. Backup Anders Lindback played well in a win over Ottawa on Saturday, stopping 35 of 36 shots in his first start, but Tippett elected to go back to Smith.
“Mike wanted to play,” Tippett said. “In a game like this is where he can be a difference.”
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