Coyotes lose special teams battle in loss to Flames

Dec 19, 2016, 11:20 PM
Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) scores a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith ...

Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) scores a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) as Flames center Sam Bennett (93) creates a screen during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aside from the play of Mike Smith, the Coyotes haven’t had many reliable components this season. Their home penalty-killing unit was one of them — until Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames at Gila River Arena.

Mikael Backlund, Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg scored power-play goals and a shaky but largely untested Brian Elliott made 25 saves in his first start in nearly a month as the Flames snapped a two-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Coyotes.

Arizona had allowed just three power-play goals on home ice all season — the least in the league — but the Flames went 3 for 6 with the man advantage to stretch their streak of power-play goals to eight straight games for the first time since 2005. They have 13 power-play goals over that stretch.

“We made mistakes to put them on the power play so that’s the biggest [problem],” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, whose team fired the game’s first 10 shots before getting outshot 28-16 the rest of the way. “When you can’t kill them, that complicates things a lot. The third part of it is when you can’t kill them and then you get your power plays, you don’t score. That’s a bad trifecta.”

One period after taking an elbow to the head from Coyotes forward Jamie McGinn that sent him to the locker room for tests, Calgary wing Versteeg took a touch pass from Sean Monahan to the right of the Arizona net and pushed a puck past Mike Smith (24 saves) for the game-winner at 12:25 of the third period.

The Coyotes had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:46 late in the game, but they didn’t generate a shot until the first of the two penalties had expired.

“We have to get one there for sure,” defenseman Alex Goligoski said. “We weren’t able to generate much. We had some rolling pucks that just kind of got everything out of sync. We weren’t able to generate that high-quality chance. Another are we’ve got to work on.”

Arizona went 0 for 5 on the power play. That effort and the penalty-killing unit’s performance spoiled a chance for points against Elliott, who had lost his starting job to Chad Johnson and hadn’t started since Nov. 28. Elliott allowed a pair of shaky goals in the game.

Coyotes center Christian Dvorak scored when Elliott went behind his net to stop and clear a puck along the boards, but his pass hit Coyotes left winger Josh Jooris, a former Flame, in the chest. The puck bounced onto Dvorak’s stick and he tucked it in the open side of the net for a 1-0 lead at 5:12 of the first period.

After Brouwer scored just 20 seconds into the third period to give Calgary a 2-1 lead, the Coyotes answered when Ryan White’s shot from the half wall somehow trickled through Elliott and in at 9:07.

“Elliott hadn’t played that much in a while so we were trying to get some pucks on him and we got a good bounce,” White said. “We got away from it in the second and started taking some penalties. I thought they had a pretty push there in the second and we didn’t answer quite the way we wanted to.”

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