LOS ANGELES — Welcome to the Hotel California. The Coyotes can check in any time they like, but they can never lose.
For the second time on this two-game trip, Arizona spotted the opposition a first-period lead. For the fourth time in four games against the Ducks and Kings this season, the Coyotes were outshot, yet for the fourth time in four games in southern California, the Coyotes emerged with a victory.
Martin Hanzal scored his first two goals of the season, Mike Smith turned in a much-needed 33-save performance for his 100th career victory and former King Brad Richardson scored the game winner as the Coyotes defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2, on Tuesday at Staples Center to post their second win over the Kings in two meetings this season, both in Los Angeles.
It was the first time in franchise history that the Coyotes have beaten the Ducks and Kings in back-to-back road games.
Youth-laden Arizona is a 6-2-1 on the road, the fifth-best road record in the NHL.
“Confidence builder for our group all the way through,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We just play pretty simple and hard on the road and we rely on everybody to do the job. It has paid off in wins for us.”
Nobody needed the boost of confidence more than Smith, who had been pulled in the team’s last home game and had posted save percentages below .900 in eight of his last nine games.
Smith was brilliant early while the Coyotes struggled to find their legs, keeping Los Angeles at bay despite a 10-4 shot disadvantage in the first period that mirrored the Coyotes’ last win here, when they were outshot 41-22 but Smith stole the game.
“I obviously haven’t been at the top of my game the last little while,” said Smith, who entered the game with a career .931 save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average against L.A. “It felt good to get in there, play my game and let things come to me. There were times when it was a little discombobulated but fortunately we were able to gain momentum as the game went along.”
Richardson admitted to feeling a bit snake-bitten recently, but he got to the net and managed to keep his stick on the ice for a feed from Jordan Martinook with 8:13 left in the game. His redirect glanced off goalie Jonathan Quick’s toe and inside the far post, giving him just his second goal of the season but a critical tally against his former team.
When asked if that made it all the sweeter, he laughed.
“What do you think?” he said.
Los Angeles grabbed the lead early on one of those goals that probably had Coyotes fans shaking their head for a few reasons. First, it was Coyote Enemy No. 1 Dustin Brown who swept in a backhand. Second, the Coyotes were off to another slow start with Los Angeles carrying the play. Third, it was the kind of slow-moving goal that Smith has been battling of late, although there was nothing he could do with Brown unmarked at the edge of the crease while Arizona defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Klas Dahlbeck were split covering two other Kings.
Los Angeles was buzzing all around Smith until Hanzal stole a Braden McNabb outlet pass in the Kings’ zone and rifled a wrist shot past Jonathan Quick for his first goal of the season at 11:37 of the first period.
Hanzal’s 13 assists without a goal had become a running joke around the team, with Tippett even joining the fray, but that only partially explained the laugh Hanzal had with his teammates after he finally dented the net.
“I wasn’t sure if they were going to count it or not,” said Hanzal, who had one waved off against the Rangers on Saturday for a high-stick. “With my luck, it’s always like that.”
He wasn’t done. After Tyler Toffoli scored on a power play to give Los Angeles a 2-1 lead five minutes in the second period, Hanzal corralled a puck in the deep slot and, with the rubber on edge, flipped a backhand over Quick’s glovehand with Anthony Duclair providing a partial screen to tie the game at 2-2.
Hanzal’s favorite city in which to play is Los Angeles. It’s easy to see why. His 26 career points against the Kings are his most against any NHL opponent.
“The last goal I scored was in January because of my back surgery,” he said. “It’s been a while. I’m really glad we got four points in two nights.”
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