GLENDALE, Ariz. – After watching a pair of teammates start the Phoenix Coyotes’ winning streak, goalie Mike Smith provided a performance to top them all.
Smith stopped 24 shots in his return to the Phoenix lineup and earned his fifth shutout of the season as the Coyotes beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 on Saturday night.
“I didn’t want to go in tonight and be tentative,” Smith said. “I wanted to go out there and do what I do.”
Smith hadn’t played since sustaining an upper body injury on March 21 when he was run over by Vancouver defenceman Alexander Edler.
“Smitty was competitive and that’s what we needed,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “He really looked solid, moved the puck well outside the net, and feet looked good inside the net. That’s a really good sign.”
Against the hapless Avalanche, who are 4-13-1 in their past 18 games, Smith rarely was tested. He posted his 24th NHL shutout and improved to 7-1-1 against Colorado.
Smith made a pair of sprawling saves against Cody McLeod in the second period and got some help when Gabriel Landeskog hit the post with 15:23 to go.
He also showed some fire, taking McLeod’s stick following that second save when McLeod chipped at Smith’s gloved left hand after the whistle, slamming it against the ice and throwing it aside.
“Tipp told me never to break my stick over the post again, so after I pulled it out of his hand and saw it I thought, ‘I better miss with this,'” Smith said. “It’s the competitive spirit in me. Just like anyone else I get frustrated out there, get emotional. Hopefully it’s in a good way.”
Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan each had a goal and an assist, Mikkel Boedker and Boyd Gordon also scored, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two assists for the Coyotes, who won their third straight.
Phoenix jumped ahead of Columbus and Edmonton into ninth place in the Western Conference, two points behind St. Louis and three behind seventh-place Detroit.
“It doesn’t do much good if we don’t find a few more (points),” Doan said. “We’re feeling better, but ninth doesn’t get you anything.”
The Avalanche have lost eight straight on the road, dating to Feb. 14.
“It’s been a tough stretch here,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “We’re trying to do what we can as coaches to make sure the guys are staying positive and sticking together. This was really the first game in the last while here where we were not really in the game.”
The Coyotes needed only 96 seconds to take the lead against Semyon Varlamov. Boedker took a pass from Hanzal, carried the puck into the Avalanche zone and flipped a wrister from the top of the right circle that sailed over Varlamov’s blocker for a 1-0 lead.
Hanzal made it 2-0 against the Avalanche’s NHL-worst, road power-play unit. He took a pass from Shane Doan on a 2-on-0 breakaway and scored into the vacated left side of the net.
Colorado entered the game having allowed 22 power-play goals in 69 chances over 19 road games, a 68.1 success rate. The Coyotes went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Varlamov allowed another tough goal at 7:04 when Gordon bounced a shot from just behind the back line off the goalie’s back and into the net for his third goal in six games.
Doan added a goal at 14:37 of the second period when Varlamov overcommitted to a pass from Ekman-Larsson to Radim Vrbata to the top right edge of the crease. Vrbata shipped the puck to an uncovered Doan on the inside edge of the left circle for a shot into the open left side of the net.
Varlamov, who faced only three shots in the third period, finished with 24 saves.
NOTES: Varlamov was playing for the first time in three games. In his prior start, April 1 at Detroit, he allowed three goals on 13 shots. … Gordon didn’t score in Phoenix’s first 32 games. … Colorado has scored two or fewer goals in six straight games. … The Coyotes are 4-1 when Boedker scores. … Avalanche RW Chuck Kobasew missed his fourth straight game because of a back injury. … Phoenix has scored three second-period goals in consecutive games. . With Smith back in the lineup, Jason LaBarbera was scratched.LaBarbera started five straight games in Smith’s absence until he was sidelined by a stomach virus on Thursday.