VANCOUVER – The Phoenix Coyotes were a team on a mission.
They arrived in Vancouver on the strength of three straight wins on home ice and without a loss in regulation dating back to March 25 against Detroit.
But the Coyotes’ recent surge hit a snag in their timid 2-0 defeat to the Canucks on Monday. Phoenix (17-16-6) started slow and barely recovered, finishing with just 19 shots on goal.
Goaltender Mike Smith did all he could to keep his team in the contest, stopping 41 shots, but his performance failed to inspire a lacklustre Phoenix offence.
“We just didn’t create enough to give ourselves chances and good looks to put the puck on net,” Smith said.
“Credit to them they did a good job of getting in our face and making it hard on us to get pucks back in their end, but when you’re facing elimination like we are we’ve got to be more desperate than we showed tonight.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was disappointed with the display and even more annoyed with his team’s inability to build on Smith’s work between the pipes.
“We were just slow moving, we were slow out of the gate for whatever reason,” he said. “It’s not a lack of confidence, we should have confidence coming off some good home wins, but we didn’t execute well, we didn’t skate well and that’s what you get when you don’t execute and don’t skate.”
While it was only Phoenix’s first regulation defeat in seven games, it was a critical loss. With only nine games remaining in the shortened season, the Coyotes still sit three points behind the eighth-placed Red Wings.
It may not appear to be a big gap, but six of Phoenix’s remaining games are on the road and it has struggled outside Arizona, going 4-9-5.
“We haven’t executed nearly as well on the road as we have at home,” Tippett said.
“It’s little plays getting made, it’s playing a sound game and we just haven’t been able to get enough people to get up to snuff like they are at home.”
Added Coyotes captain Shane Doan: “We’ve just got to get back to playing the way we’ve been playing for the last six or seven games and give ourselves a chance.
“Obviously it makes the next two on the road (against Edmonton and Calgary) that much more important.”