Jason Brough

Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) gets pulled in favor of goalie Louis Domingue (35) as left wing Jamie McGinn (88) watches during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP

Mike Smith had an ‘awful’ night for the Coyotes

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Mike Smith made only his fifth start of the season last night for the Arizona Coyotes, and things did not go well.

The Coyotes lost, 4-1, to the visitors from Vancouver. Afterwards, Smith delivered a frank assessment of his performance.

“It was awful,” he told reporters. “It was sleeping right from the first goal, and right through on. It was not even close. We did a lot of good things, I thought, in front of me and didn’t get rewarded for it tonight. But a lot of that comes solely on my shoulders tonight.”

The first goal Smith surrendered came off a careless turnover by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, pounced on by Bo Horvat, who quickly fed Sven Baertschi for the tap-in:

“Instead of making a big save there, you let one in that you were sleeping on a little bit,” said Smith. “From there on in, it was obvious that I wasn’t feeling it tonight. It’s no excuse. You have to get the job done.”

The Coyotes ended up outshooting the Canucks, 36-27, but the real difference was goaltending. In Vancouver’s net was Ryan Miller, who turned in his finest performance of the month and was named the game’s third star.

As for Smith, well, this was the fourth and final goal he allowed, right before he got the hook:

With the loss, the 34-year-old Smith fell to 2-1-1 with a .904 save percentage.

The Coyotes host Connor McDavid and the Oilers tomorrow. Louis Domingue is the other Arizona goalie. He’s 4-8-0 with the same .904 save percentage as Smith’s.

Pick your poison, Dave Tippett.

Related: For better or worse, the Coyotes are ‘married’ to Smith

Kevan Miller a game-time decision for Chara-less Bruins

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 12: Kevan Miller #86 of the Boston Bruins shoots the puck against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on May 12, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins will be without Zdeno Chara tonight in Ottawa, but they could get Kevan Miller back.

Head coach Claude Julien said this morning that Miller will be a game-time decision. The 29-year-old defenseman has yet to make his 2016-17 debut. He had hand surgery on Oct. 11, two days before the Bruins opened their season.

If Miller does play, it will likely mean another game in the press box for Colin Miller. The 24-year-old has been a healthy scratch the past four games. He has one goal and one assist in 15 games, with a minus-6 rating.

As for Kevan Miller, tonight could mark his first game for the Bruins since signing a four-year, $10 million extension. Last season, the 29-year-old set career highs in NHL games played (71), goals (5), assists (13), and average ice time (19:04).

It was not all roses for the undrafted University of Vermont product. That Miller had to play such a large role became emblematic of the Bruins’ issues on the right side of their defense, and he heard it from the fans at times. In the end, among Boston d-men, only Chara and Torey Krug logged more ice time than Miller.

This season, the surprising play of rookie Brandon Carlo has alleviated some of the concerns about the right side. But Carlo will be tested tonight without Chara as his partner. The 19-year-old will likely skate with veteran John-Michael Liles, while Krug is expected to pair with Adam McQuaid, and Joe Morrow will be with one of the Millers, probably Kevan.

Suddenly, some holes are showing in the Rangers’ game

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts after giving up a goal to Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in New York. The Penguins won 6-1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
AP
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The New York Rangers fell woefully short last night at MSG, losing 6-1 to the visitors from Pittsburgh while getting outshot 38-17.

It was by far the worst performance of the Rangers’ mostly excellent season, and it left head coach Alain Vigneault perplexed.

“I can’t explain to you at this time exactly what happened,” Vigneault told reporters. “Obviously I’m disappointed. The players are disappointed in our game. I know our fans are disappointed.”

Now, granted, every team has a few stinkers over an 82-game season. The Rangers are still a very respectable 14-6-1, with a plus-29 goal differential. Only Montreal (14-4-2) has more points in the overall standings, and nobody has a better goal differential.

The question with these Rangers is a matter of sustainability — just like it was last season, when they started 16-3-2, only to play .500 hockey the rest of the way before getting tossed aside by the Penguins in the playoffs.

This year’s Rangers, unlike last year’s, have not been riding the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. In fact, Lundqvist (9-6-1, .911) has been outplayed by his backup, Antti Raanta (5-0-0, .934). Those two combined, the Blueshirts have been getting around league-average goaltending.

What hasn’t been average is the Rangers’ shooting percentage, currently at an NHL-high 13.5. The next highest percentage belongs to Columbus, at 11.2, then Montreal, at 10.8. Last season, only one team finished with a shooting percentage over 10, and that was Dallas (10.1). The Rangers finished second, at 9.95.

You look at the Rangers’ top scorers and almost all of them have been shooting the lights out:

rangers

History suggests that it’s not if the Rangers shooting percentage regresses, it’s by how much, and whether they can make up for it in other areas, like goaltending or increased puck possession.

Speaking of puck possession, in the Rangers’ last 10 games, their score-adjusted Corsi ranks 29th out of 30 teams, with only the Islanders below them. On the season, they rank 22nd, just below Buffalo and just above Vancouver. Which isn’t the greatest company to be keeping.

We do not mean to pour cold water on what’s been a very encouraging start to the Rangers’ season. GM Jeff Gorton still deserves much praise for adding the likes of Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, and Brandon Pirri in free agency. And let’s not forget that Mika Zibanejad just got hurt, and that may help explain last night’s stinker.

Read more: The new-look Rangers are dangerous on every line

This is simply something we’ll be monitoring, whether the Rangers maintain their winning ways or they don’t. That’s the problem with getting off to such a great start. Everyone starts poking holes, wondering how long it can last.

The Rangers take on the Flyers in Philadelphia tomorrow afternoon. The game can be seen on NBC, starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Rinne holds the fort as Preds beat Stars

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, of Finland, gloves a St. Louis Blues shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Pekka Rinne doesn’t want November to end.

Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and an assist to lead the Nashville Predators over the Dallas Stars 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rinne made 33 saves for Nashville, improving to 7-1-2 this November. After he made eight saves in the first, Dallas put 22 on the Finn in the second, and he denied them all. He stopped 3 of 5 in the third.

“They came hard that period, they shot the puck a lot,” Rinne said of the second. “For the most part, I was able to see it. I felt good all night, and that was a busy period. Obviously now looking back, that was a big period just being able to defend that.”

Mike Fisher and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, winners of three of four.

Patrick Sharp and Brett Ritchie scored and Kari Lehtonen made 16 saves for the Stars, who have lost two of three.

“There was a lot of good stuff in the game,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “Our energy was good. I thought the second period on, our breakouts coming out of our own end were good.”

Forsberg scored the game’s first goal with 5:08 left in the opening period. With the puck above the right faceoff circle, P.K. Subban sent a pass to Forsberg in the lower part of the left circle. There, Forsberg squeezed the puck in between Lehtonen’s right skate and the right post.

“It was a really nice play by Subby to find me back door and I just tried to hit the net,” Forsberg said.

It was Forsberg’s second goal of the season. In 2015-16, Forsberg matched a franchise record with 33 goals.

Subban has points in four consecutive games.

Fisher doubled the lead with 3:54 left in the second. His initial attempt from the left side was blocked by Jason Spezza, but Fisher regained control of the puck, skated behind the net and beat Lehtonen with a backhanded wraparound.

A lengthy video review determined the puck had completely crossed the goal line, giving the Nashville captain his fourth goal of the season.

Sharp got Dallas on the scoreboard at 5:32 of the third with a short-handed goal. It was the first of the season for Sharp, who missed 14 games with concussion-like symptoms before returning Nov. 17.

“Yeah, disappointing third period,” Sharp said. “We kind of put ourselves in a good spot there on the road trailing by one against a tough team. It’s not a bad spot to be in, but a couple of mistakes ended up being the difference in the game.”

Johansen answered 41 seconds later with a power-play goal. Neal sent a pass from the left circle in front to Johansen, who had a tap-in for his second of the season.

“That was a really big goal,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “At that point, they had fired a lot of shots, a lot of attempts. We were on the power play and there’s a chance to really blow it open, and we give one back the other way. I don’t think there was much time left in the power play, maybe 25 seconds or so and to go out there, get it in and get it to the net, and score a goal and take back the two goals at that point I think was really important.”

The assist was the 200th of Neal’s career.

Smith scored with 8:51 left off Forsberg’s pass.

Ritchie scored his sixth of the season with 1:16 left, but Neal answered a minute later with an empty-net goal.

Pre-game reading: Sharks GM believes Burns is ‘just coming into his prime’

This is a new feature on PHT. It’s like the Morning Skate, only not in the morning. 

— Up top, J.R. loves him some Brent Burns.

— Sharks GM Doug Wilson on the 31-year-old Burns: “I honestly do feel he’s just coming into his prime.” Wilson better hope so, because Burns is now signed until he’s 40. Speaking of 40, there are only 40 NHL defensemen who are older than Burns. The oldest is 39-year-old Zdeno Chara, who’s slowed down a touch but remains a huge part of the Bruins. At any rate, the Sharks had little choice but to bow to Burns’ demands. They want to win a Stanley Cup, and their chances would take a serious hit without him. (CSN Bay Area)

— If you thought the players cashed in on the World Cup, think again. “Each of the 184 players who was on a World Cup roster projected to be paid between $75,000 and $80,000 (U.S.), while players who spent all 186 days on an NHL roster last season will be paid about $10,000 each.” While that’s a decent chunk of change for the Average Joe, it’s not for the best hockey players in the world. Burns, for example, is set to make almost $100,000 per game on his new deal. (Hockey News)

— A list of seven rookies making unexpected contributions, featuring Flyers forward Travis Konecny, who has four goals and eight assists in 20 games. The key word is “unexpected,” so don’t expect to read about Patrik Laine or any of the Maple Leafs young forwards, the latter of whom have been written about enough. (Canadian Press)

— Mark Recchi will have to sell his “very, very, very, small” share in the Vegas Golden Knights. That’s because Recchi is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ player development coach, and owning a share of another NHL franchise would be a conflict of interest. According to ESPN’s business reporter, Darren Rovell, other minority owners of the expansion team include Rob Gronkowski, Jose Bautista, Prince Amukamara, Carol Alt, and Alexei Yashin. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

— The Golden Knights are hoping to be more successful than the Golden Seals. That shouldn’t be hard, given the Golden Seals were a total disaster. The Seals eventually moved to Cleveland, where things didn’t go much better. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

— Former NHL defenseman Ian White is on probation after pleading guilty to three firearms charges. The 32-year-old has also battled opiate addiction, though he maintains he’s been clean for six months. White last played in the NHL for the Detroit Red Wings. It was not a good fit under Mike Babcock. (Winnipeg Sun)

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