In a battle between two teams trying to stay alive in the National Hockey League Playoffs, one team took advantage of the power play while the other looked like their season was already over.
Detroit scored three power play goals and dominated on the penalty kill as they cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
“It was a season of frustration, but I thought we played hard in the first period,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “Special teams were a big difference tonight and they took advantage of it.”
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped all 34 shots he faced and the Red Wings defense shut down the Coyotes in all aspects of their game.
The Red Wings went on the power play early when Antoine Vermette was called for holding 1:53 into the game. The Red Wings’ Damien Brunner took a pass at the right point and fired a one-timer. The puck sailed in front, where Johan Franzen deflected it with his stick under Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith's pads into the back of the net three minutes into the game.
“You want to get off to a good start, and to take a penalty right out of the gate is not ideal,” Tippett said. “We kept pushing and five-on-five we’re fine, but the special teams were the outcome tonight.”
The Coyotes lacked emotion and didn't play with desperation as the season rested on winning the remaining four games.
“It is disappointing, after getting to the Conference Finals last year and having success, and sitting where we are right now is a hard pill to swallow." -- Coyotes goalie Mike Smith
With the loss to the Red Wings, the best the Coyotes can finish this season is with 52 points, while Minnesota and Columbus currently sit in a tie for eighth place with 51.
“The odds don't look in our favor, but there is no quit in this group,” Tippett said. “We will come home and try to take it one game at a time like we did in this game.”
Detroit put the game away when they got their second power play with more than a minute left in the first period after David Moss was called for holding. Thirty-five seconds into the power play, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg took the puck just inside the blue line and fired a pass to the left side of the crease. There, Brunner, racing down the left side of the ice, took the pass the tipped the puck past Smith, giving the Red Wings a 2-0 lead after the first period.
“I was trying to track the puck and didn't see the guy racing down,” Smith said. “That is a goal I have stopped many times, but it went through me. Not making any excuses, it is what it is, but I thought we competed hard and gave it our best, but unfortunately it wasn't good enough.”
The Coyotes outshot the Red Wings 12-4 in the first period, but couldn't get the puck past Howard.
Detroit extended their lead late in the second when Zetterberg brought the puck across the blue line and slipped a pass to Valtteri Flippula. Flippula skated down and fired a shot from the bottom of the right face-off circle, and the puck squeezed between Smith's pad and the post with less than four minutes left in the second period.
“We couldn't find a goal and they scored on the power play tonight,” Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said. “Their power play was better than ours and that was the difference.”
Franzen scored an empty-netter with a minute left in the game, all but eliminating the Coyotes from the playoffs.
“It is disappointing, after getting to the Conference Finals last year and having success, and sitting where we are right now is a hard pill to swallow,” Smith said. “We were right there as far as effort, but their goalie played really well, and I was mediocre on my part.”
The Coyotes return to Jobing.com Arena 7 p.m. Wednesday to face the San Jose Sharks.