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Coyotes Seek Offensive Spark in Game 3

Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 10:19 PM / Features
By Jerry Brown  - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE -- Five goals in their last five games.

Even against two Vezina Trophy candidates and even for a team not known for being offensively explosive, the Coyotes have picked a lousy time for a scoring funk.

After being shut out 4-0 by the Kings in Game 2 of the Western Conference final, the goal might be to make sure Kings goalie Jonathan Quick doesn't fall asleep when the series resumes Thursday in Los Angeles. The Coyotes' scoring chances in this series have been few and far between -- and almost always the product of individual effort over possession through the neutral zone.

Photo by Norm Hall.

"It is the playoffs. You have to do everything you can to create opportunities for your team," said Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, who hasn't been shy in his analysis of his team's offensive effort so far. "It starts with getting pucks to people at the net. That's what time of year it is. To be able to score goals on Vezina Trophy nominee goaltenders, you can't let him see the pucks or get to the rebounds."

The Coyotes scored a postseason-high five goals on Nashville's Pekka Rinne in a 5-2 win over the Predators in Game 2 of the conference semifinals on April 29. Since then, the Coyotes haven't scored more than twice in any game, have been shut out twice and squeezed out a 1-0 win in another.

In 13 playoff games this postseason, the Coyotes have 142 fewer shots than their opponents (488-346) but have allowed just 29 goals (2.23 per game) thanks to the stellar goaltending of Smith. But when you stop scoring, even that's not good enough. The Coyotes were outshot 88-51 in two home games against the Kings and the scoring chances were even more lopsided.

"Our execution hasn't been near what it needs to be to get enough pucks towards their net," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "You see their mindset is just to dump as many pucks as they could into our net. The reality is their execution is better up the ice to allow them to do that.

"The ratio of our execution to pucks at the net is not working out. There has to be more."

Tippett juggled his top three lines in search of some better chemistry in Game 2. While the trio of Mikkel Boedker, Boyd Gordon and Lauri Korpikoski had better success against Game 1 heroes Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar (two shots combined), the offense continued to stagger.

"That first game, they had a really good forecheck. We played mostly in our zone," Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said. "But in Game 2 I felt like, before we got into that penalty trouble, I think we had some chances. We were just not able to score on them."

So the games pile up. Leading point producer Ray Whitney is scoreless in the last five games. Vrbata, who led the team with 35 goals, is also in a five-game drought, as is top-scoring defenseman Keith Yandle. Antoine Vermette, who leads the team with five playoff goals, has one assist in the same span. Korpikoski doesn't have a single postseason point.

Radim Vrbata

"We'll have to generate more if we want to be successful," said Vrbata, who was more active in Game 2. "It seems like there's not much going on in the offensive zone for us right now. There's not going to be much probably, but if you have to win 1-0, so be it. We just have to win a game."

The Phoenix power play had four more chances in Game 2 and is 0 for 9 in the series. But even more alarming is the Coyotes have generated just seven shots in more than 15 minutes with the man advantage and have rarely established puck possession against a Los Angeles team that has now killed 28 straight power plays in the playoffs with a very aggressive style.

"(The power-play's struggle) is the question we have been asking all season," Vrbata said. "Sometimes you have chances, and it's not going in. But right now it's just about getting the puck in the zone, getting shots through, and you know, hope for a rebound."

The Coyotes are hoping for one play, one goal, one shot of momentum to turn the tide against a Los Angeles team that has offered opponents little time or space in the postseason.

"It's funny how once it starts coming, it comes easier," captain Shane Doan said. "Until it does come, though, it's sometimes difficult to find. You just have to have some success, taste a little bit of it. Once you get that it seems to pile on itself."

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