After going three weeks without a win in regulation, the Anaheim Ducks were in desperate need of a break. Fortunately, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith obliged with a slip-and-fall straight out of the Keystone Kops.
Kyle Palmieri and Patrick Maroon each scored a goal, and Ryan Kesler had two assists in the Ducks' 2-1 victory over the Coyotes on Sunday night.
"This team has played a lot of hockey, and everyone in this locker room is a little glad we kept it at 60 minutes tonight," Palmieri said.
Frederik Andersen stopped 26 shots for the Ducks, who extended their unbeaten streak against the Coyotes to seven games. And while the Ducks (13-4-5) have maintained their lead in the Western Conference despite a string of overtimes, they played the third period like a team fearful of seeing another game go past regulation.
"Once we got that two-goal lead we gave away the initiative again," Andersen said. "We got to learn to play with the lead a little bit better and learn to finish them off instead of inviting them back in."
Keith Yandle scored and Mike Smith made 28 saves for the Coyotes, who ended their three-game road trip in comically frustrating fashion. Smith lost his footing trying to play the puck behind his own goal in the second period, and teammate Zbynek Michalek landed on top of him.
They left a gaping net for Palmieri after Kesler collected the misplayed puck and calmly delivered it for the game's opening goal.
"He's very good at playing the puck and everyone in the league knows that," said Palmieri, acknowledging that the plan was actually to keep the puck away from Smith. "It was not a great dump by me, but, hey, it worked out and was a great goal for us."
Barely three minutes later, Maroon knocked home the rebound off Sami Vatanen's thunderous shot from the point for the 2-0 advantage. Kesler won the faceoff and dropped the puck right back to Vatanen, giving him 11 assists this season.
Those two sequences were a stark reversal from the play that preceded it, with Smith making a number of decisive saves for the Coyotes (9-11-2) and the Ducks wasting their most promising scoring opportunities.
"They were dominating us and the only reason it wasn't 4-0 after the first was because of him," Yandle said of Smith. "He made huge saves, timely saves. He was awesome for us and we weren't able to help him out."
After Yandle scored with 11:04 remaining, the Coyotes couldn't force overtime even with two late power plays. Shane Doan drew a holding penalty on a near-breakaway 46 seconds after Yandle's goal and Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin was called cross-checking with 36.6 seconds left.
"I think we are still way too tentative in the third period with a lead, but I think quite frankly that comes with playing so many overtime and close games," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The more we get to hold these leads, the better we'll be as we go forward."Newly acquired forward Rene Bourque made his debut for the Ducks, who couldn't crack Smith on numerous scoring chances before his awkward tumble to the ice. Anaheim traded defenseman Bryan Allen to Montreal in exchange for Bourque, who skated largely on a line with Devante Smith-Pelly and Rickard Rakell.
Before the Ducks scored their two second-period goals, Corey Perry and Maroon had several whacks at the puck from close range early in the second period. Hampus Lindholm also couldn't follow up on a promising rebound off Smith-Pelly's blistering one-timer.
"Mike was excellent," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He took the responsibility. He knew we were going to be in a tough situation, a tough turnaround. He did his job."
Smith wanted no part of that praise, calling the game a "results-based industry."
"We have to get back on track here," Smith said. "As a group, we need to find consistency in our game."
On that, both the Ducks and Coyotes can agree.
NOTES: Ducks D Clayton Stoner was held out with possible mumps symptoms and will undergo further evaluation. Perry and Beauchemin each previously missed five games with the virus, which is characterized by the swelling of salivary glands and flu-like symptoms including fever and aches. ... Mat Clark took Stoner's spot in the lineup. ... The Coyotes entered the game with the second-best power play on the road in the NHL this season at 27.8 percent, but did not score on any of their three opportunities with the man-advantage.