EVERETT, Wash. - Jeff Halpern scored two goals for Tampa Bay in the second period and the Lightning held on and beat the Coyotes, 2-1, Tuesday night in a preseason game played at Comcast Arena.
“I thought we played well defensively,” Coyotes Associate Coach Ulf Samuelsson said. “We didn’t give up too many chances, but we had a hard time moving the puck up the ice quickly. Our defensemen weren’t relly quick getting the puck out so we didn’t get a lot of chances on the rush or good speed through the neutral zone.”
Petr Prucha scored his first goal of the preseason for the Coyotes, who will play the Lightning in another preseason game on Wednesday night in Loveland, Colo.
Trailing 2-0, Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata gathered the loose puck behind Tampa Bay’s net and circled in front. He then slid a pass to Prucha, who knocked the puck past Lightning goalie Mike Smith at 10:35 of the second period.
Joel Perrault of the Coyotes fights for the puck Tuesday night in Everett, Wash. (Photo by Frank Deines III).
Tampa Bay, coached by former Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, wasted little time capitalizing on a roughing penalty against Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin called at 2:24 of the second period. Halpern knocked a rebound past Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov eight seconds into the power play.
Halpern scored again less than three minutes later off a sweeping feed by James Wright from the left corner.
The Coyotes pulled Bryzgalov late in the third period and had a few decent scoring chances with the extra attacker. But Smith did not allow the tying goal.
Smith appeared to be injured late in the first period when he and Prucha collided in front of the Tampa Bay net after an unsuccessful two-on-one Phoenix rush. Smith remained on the ice for several moments after Prucha slid into him, but he eventually got to his feet and stayed in the game.
There were no fights in the game, but it was physical at times. Tampa Bay’s Radek Smolenak delivered a hard check that upended Coyotes forward David Spina at 7:00 of the third period. Coyotes captain Shane Doan immediately responded with a hard check that drove Smolenak into the boards.
With the defeat, the Coyotes dropped to 1-2-3 on the preseason with two games to go. Nevertheless, defenseman Kurt Sauer said he thinks the Coyotes are very close to where they need to be before the regular season opens on Oct. 3 in Los Angeles.
“We’re playing good,” Sauer said. “We’ve just got to clean up a couple of things. I thought we played pretty good tonight. We were getting shots to the net. We got a couple of second chances, we’ve just got to get a couple more like that, but overall I think we’re OK.”
Tuesday’s game was the first NHL game ever played in this town, which is about 25 miles north of downtown Seattle. The announced attendance was 7,281.
A vocal pocket of fans sitting behind the Phoenix bench cheered the Coyotes on throughout the game. The familiar "Let's Go Coy-otes!" chant was delivered several times.