That has not been the case thanks to backup goalie Thomas Greiss.
Greiss played a second straight spectacular game, making 26 saves in
regulation and three more in a shootout as the Coyotes defeated the
New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Thursday night at Prudential Center.
Greiss made 23 saves Tuesday in the Coyotes' 3-2 win against the
Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, as Phoenix grabbed five of six points
on a three-game road trip to pull five points clear of the Dallas
Stars for the final wild-card spot in the West.
"He's been unbelievable," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "Tonight,
he probably made four or five really big saves that kept the game at
1-0 or 2-1. In the shootout, he was great."
Are the Coyotes being more mindful defensively with their backup
goaltender in net, or has Greiss been that good in these two games?
"I'm sure it's both," Doan said. "We also have a ton of confidence
in Greisser. Everybody in here has been shooting on him all year and
when he went in, he's been amazing. I don't know what his save
percentage is but he's had a couple shutouts. He's been amazing for
Greiss' save percentage has been .924.
Greiss made just 13 starts this season, but is 9-5-2 with a 2.31
goals-against-average. Despite not many opportunities behind
workhorse Smith, he made the most of his chances to play.
"Greisser, when he's played this year, he's given the guys a boost,"
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "They trust him. They like him.
They talk about how hard he is to score on in practice. It's not as
if we're overprotecting somebody because we're not sure what we're
going to get. It's back to our same game and Greiss will give us the
solid goaltending we need."
The Devils were once again vexed by the shootout, dropping to 0-9
this season in the skills competition. They have one goal in 28
shootout attempts, which came from forward Reid Boucher, a rookie
who is currently in the AHL. On Thursday, left wingers Patrik Elias
and Ryane Clowe along with right winger Damien Brunner were unable
to get a puck past Greiss.
By rallying from a 2-0 deficit on goals from Clowe and center Adam
Henrique and forcing overtime, the Devils moved to within four
points of the final wild-card spot in the East. Still, it was
another frustrating loss from a team that is running out of time.
"It's in your head. You need to break that goose egg," Clowe said of
the winless record in the shootout. "Eventually we're going to score
first and give ourselves a sigh of relief, but when you make it
tense and keep coming down to score, you're done. It's tough. It's
hard on the goalies when they give up one goal."
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The Coyotes grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals from a pair of unlikely
sources. Left winger Kyle Chipchura scored his fourth of the season
2:27 into the game and defenseman Chris Summers got his second of
the season with 3:03 remaining in the second period.
Clowe had a puck bounce off his shoulder and past Greiss with 0.3
seconds remaining in the second period to make it 2-1, and
Henrique's wraparound goal at 10:32 of the third period gave the
Devils a chance to secure two points.
But Mikkel Boedker scored in the first round of the shootout after a
scoreless overtime, and the Devils once again were unable to answer.
"It's frustrating, but the part that is not frustrating is the
effort we put in tonight," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We threw
everything at them and their goalie was very good."
The Stars hold two games in hand on the Coyotes, who have a showdown
with seventh-place Minnesota Wild at home Saturday night. The
Coyotes are one point behind the Wild, and a win could go a long way
toward securing a playoff berth.
"Our game, playing well, will get us one of those spots," Tippett
said. "If we play the way we can and the way we hope to, we just
want to get ourselves in the playoffs."
NOTES: Coyotes C Mike Ribeiro and D Derek Morris were healthy
scratches for a consecutive straight game. Ribeiro signed a
four-year, $22 million contract with the Coyotes last offseason and
is fourth on team in points with 45 points in 72 games. Morris is
fourth on the team in ice time, averaging 19:30 per game. ...
Phoenix G Mike Smith (lower body) missed his second consecutive game
and is considered day-to-day. ... Coyotes RW David Moss (lower body)
exited the game in the first period and did not return. ... Devils D
Bryce Salvador (lower body) was scratched. D Eric Gelinas, who
played as a forward against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, took
his place on the back end.
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