GLENDALE, Ariz. – The post-season has never been kind to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Game 7s have been down right forgettable.
With their 6-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, the Coyotes are 0-6 in the first round since moving to Arizona for the 1996-97 season. During that time they’ve scored only one goal in three Game 7s, and the franchise, which started as the Winnipeg Jets, still hasn’t won a playoff series since 1987.
Phoenix didn’t match Detroit’s intensity at the start of this one and was outshot 50-33.
“I still can’t believe the game ended like that,” forward Lee Stempniak said. “They outplayed us right from the start.”
The Coyotes’ special teams, responsible for the team’s first three goals in Sunday’s 5-2 win, were neutralized Tuesday, with the power play going 0-for-5.
“When you get back on your heels and it feels like nothing’s working, it’s very draining,” coach Dave Tippett said.
The Coyotes also couldn’t slow down the Red Wings, who went 3-for-6 with the man advantage.
“I thought we had them right where we wanted them,” said Vernon Fiddler, who had Phoenix’s only goal. “They just seemed to be able to get the goals when they needed them.
“It’s not like their goalie stood on his head by any means. We just weren’t getting to the net. They did a good job in the penalty kill. They beat us in that matchup tonight. That’s what wins and loses you games in the playoffs.”
This post-season was the Coyotes’ first appearance since 2002, and they were without captain Shane Doan, the only holdover from the ’02 team, for much of the series. Doan, who led Phoenix with 55 points in the regular season, sustained a Grade 3 shoulder separation in the third game on a collision with the end boards in Detroit and didn’t play again.
Tippett said players normally need three to four weeks to come back from that injury “and he was trying to push it (for Game 7).”
“I felt so bad for him knowing how he wants to play so bad,” Tippett said. “It was obvious he couldn’t play at the level needed. It wasn’t a good injury at the time, and we missed him.”
Doan said he couldn’t fully explain how difficult it was to watch.
“I’d give anything to be out there and try to help my teammates,” he said. “Obviously I’ve been waiting a long time to play in these, and it was tough.”
So was another first-round exit for a team which started the season with no owner or coach, played much of the year in a half-empty home arena but still won a franchise record 50 games and finished with the fourth most points in the NHL.
“We would have liked to come to the rink tomorrow and play a game again,” defenceman Zbynek Michalek said, “but that’s not going to happen.”