Familiar issues cost Coyotes in loss to Kings

Dec 1, 2016, 11:17 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2016, 12:16 am
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) celebrates a goal by teammate Trevor Lewis against Arizo...

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) celebrates a goal by teammate Trevor Lewis against Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes placed a lot of emphasis on an eight-game run against the Pacific Division that ended with Thursday’s meeting against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena.

“We had a real tough road trip to start the season so we want to use these to get ourselves back in the race,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said prior to facing the Kings.

Unfortunately for the team, many of the same issues that plagued it on its 1-5 road trip surfaced again on Thursday. Los Angeles scored twice in the game’s final seven minutes to post a 4-3 win and drop the Coyotes to 3-2-3 in that eight-game stretch — three points behind the nearest Pacific Division team and 10 points out of first.

“We just turned the puck over too many times and gave them too many chances,” Tippett said. “Sometimes, it’s just a simple play to gain a line. When you don’t get them made it comes back to bite you.”

In a dose of irony, Tippett said the team just worked on a drill that emphasized gaining lines and then the players failed to execute it against the Kings.

“We bring so much trouble on ourselves it’s frustrating,” Tippett said.

The Kings thought they had seized control of the game when forward Jordan Nolan banked a shot from behind the net off Smith’s left pad at 13:41 of the third period for his second goal of the game, the first of which broke a 67-game drought. But Tobias Rieder tied the game nine seconds later when defenseman Alex Goligoski sprung him on a breakaway, giving the Coyotes new life.

They wasted it when Max Domi turned the puck over inside his own blue line and Anze Kopitar intercepted it. Smith stopped Marian Gaborik’s deflection of Kopitar’s shot, but Trevor Lewis collected the rebound in the slot with nobody on him and buried the game-winning goal with 4:05 remaining.

“We’ve got to be better at puck management,” Rieder said. “We tie the game late in the third and then give up another goal. We’ve just got to be better with the puck in our own zone.”

The Coyotes wasted some good special teams play, too, in a game that featured 11 power plays. Arizona’s power play went 2 for 6 with Martin Hanzal scoring both goals. The penalty killing unit held Los Angeles scoreless, but the Kings outplayed Arizona in 5-on-5 time. That has been a consistent problem for the Coyotes all season. Arizona is the worst team in the league in average shot differential, allowing nearly six shots more than it generates per game.

“We just need some people that can do the job,” Tippett said.

The loss was frustrating for Smith, who did not speak to the media afterward. Smith has kept the team in most games this season. He appeared to get caught out of position on Nolan’s second goal, but he made a number of good stops among his 29 saves in the game.

“I thought he was unlucky,” Tippett said. “He made some great saves. Even the fourth goal, he makes a great save on a deflection after we turn it over and then nobody picks up the guy in the middle.

“I’m sure he’s very frustrated just like the rest of us.”

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Familiar issues cost Coyotes in loss to Kings