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Smith, Coyotes ‘very frustrated’ after blowing late lead versus L.A.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Asked if he knew when he scored his last goal, Jordan Nolan put his head down in the locker room. He laughed a little.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Nolan said. “I don’t even want to look back on it. Just kind of forget about it and just move on.”

Nolan scored his first two goals of the season – and his first since April 2015 – to help the Los Angeles Kings edge the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 on Wednesday night.

“Just some puck luck, I guess,” Nolan said. “I feel like I got some good chances here and just fortunate to go in.”

Trevor Lewis scored the winner off a turnover with 4:05 left. The Kings withstood a late power play and an extra attacker to hold on for their sixth win in seven games.

Anze Kopitar had two assists and backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff, pressed into action to start the second period, faced 26 shots and made 25 saves.

Martin Hanzal scored twice for the Coyotes in the first period, with Michael Stone assisting on both. Mike Smith stopped 29 shots, but gave up two goals in the final 7 minutes.

“I thought he was unlucky,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Smith. “Made some great saves but was unlucky. I’m sure he’s very frustrated, just like the rest of us.”

The Coyotes pulled Smith for an extra attacker for the last 1:34, but couldn’t draw even.

The teams scored 9 seconds apart in the third period. Nolan’s second goal of the night came from a shot from behind the net that bounced off the back of Smith’s legs to give the Kings a 3-2 lead at 13:41 of the period.

“I see some of the top players kind of throw it at the net when they’re in the corner there,” Nolan said. “It goes in for them, so I thought why not give it a try?”

Arizona’s Tobias Rieder, who’d been a hard mark for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty for much of the game, took in a long pass from Alex Goligoski and got off a shot ahead of Doughty that beat Zatkoff at 13:50.

That set the stage for Lewis’ winner.

“We did a good job kind of weathering their push in the second and tied it,” Zatkoff said. “It was a gritty win. We probably didn’t play our best but it’s two points. Got contributions up and down the lineup.”

The Coyotes converted 2 of 6 power plays, the first successful power plays in the past five games. Nine of their last 10 games have been decided by one goal.

The Kings went 0 for 6 on power plays.

Forward Tyler Toffoli picked up two tripping penalties in the first 39 seconds of the game, the first which led to the Coyotes scoring their opening goal.

Toffoli was sent to the penalty box nine seconds into the game, and six seconds later, Hanzal deflected Radim Vrbata‘s shot into the net for a 1-0 Arizona lead.

Toffoli was whistled for tripping again at 39 seconds, but the Kings’ penalty kill unit prevented a second goal for those two minutes.

Los Angeles tied it at 12:25 of the first when Dustin Brown skated up ice, flipped a centering pass to Kopitar and got the puck back from Kopitar. Brown’s shot attempt was wide but it went to teammate Dwight King, who put the puck past Smith.

It was King’s fifth goal of the season.

The Coyotes went ahead 2-1 on Hanzal’s wrist shot that went off starting goalie Peter Budaj‘s stick and into the net at 18:32 of the period, again on the power play. Hanzal, with five goals, also has three two-point games this season.

Before that goal, the Coyotes, with Smith making several stops, thwarted a 5-on-3 opportunity the Kings had for 53 seconds in the first period.

Zatkoff got his first win as a King. He took over for Peter Budaj, who had four saves on six shots faced.

“Trying to win a game, right?” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of his move to go with Zatkoff.

The Kings drew even again with Nolan’s goal at 10:14 of the second. Nolan’s backhand shot eluded Smith for his first goal of the season and first since April of 2015.

NOTES: Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson played after leaving Tuesday’s game at San Jose with an upper body injury, and logged an assist. … Arizona’s Shane Doan passed Wayne Gretzky for 19th place on the NHL’s career list.

PHT Morning Skate: Challenging Byfuglien’s suspension; Where is Sharks’ offense?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Should the Montreal Canadiens hire Mike Babcock? (Montreal Gazette)

• The Devils have been struggling badly on special teams. (All About the Jersey)

• Lightning forward Yanni Gourde is even better than you think. (Raw Charge)

• How easy will it be to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs? (Pension Plan Puppets)

Brett Connolly has been a very useful asset for the Florida Panthers. (Rat Trick)

• The Coyotes goalie tandem has been terrific this season. (Five For Howling)

• The NHLPA is challenging the Dustin Byfuglien suspension. (Winnipeg Free Press)

• The Bolts can benefit from this difficult start. (NHL.com)

• Where is the San Jose Sharks’ offense? (Rotoworld)

• The Ducks are satisfied with Garnet Hathaway‘s three-game suspension. (OC Register)

• Sheldon Keefe has a quiet confidence about him that should help him guide the Leafs. (TSN)

Zack Kassian has found a spot on the Oilers’ top line. (Sportsnet)

• There’s a lot of questions facing Keefe and his level of success will depend on how many he can answer. (Editor in Leaf)

Patrice Bergeron is starting to get healthier. (NBC Sports Boston)

• The Blue Jackets have added Paul MacLean to their staff (NHL.com/BlueJackets)

Brendan Perlini talks about his fresh start in Detroit and his English upbringing. (Sporting News)

• Isles goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin wants to be in the NHL next season. (The Sports Daily)

• Kris Versteeg left the Rockford Ice Hogs on Sunday and the team isn’t in a rush to name a new captain. (Second City Hockey)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Streaks good and bad around NHL; Leafs turn the page

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Turning over new Maple Leafs

One streak did end, although Sheldon Keefe has to hope that his NHL head coaching career will begin with a streak that goes beyond a debut win. The Maple Leafs ended their losing streak at six games by beating the Coyotes 3-1 in their first game after Mike Babcock fired. Read up on that win here.

From hot streaks to cold

The Islanders maintained their now-franchise-record breaking point streak of 16 games by beating the Penguins in overtime. In doing so, the Isles are also on a five-game winning streak. The Dallas Stars matched that winning streak with their fifth victory in a row, and are pretty hot in their own right, going 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. They’re also 12-1-1 in their last 14 contests.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Flames put forth a painful, pitiful effort in dropping their sixth straight loss. The Predators were more competitive in many ways on Thursday, but Nashville has also lost six in a row. Tense times for two teams that expected to be Western Conference contenders.

Three Stars

1. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Heading into Thursday’s game, Giroux was on a three-game pointless streak, and only had a single point (one goal) over his past six games. The veteran forward exploded with a two-goal, two-assist performance to help the Flyers beat the Hurricanes.

Giroux’s two assists were primary assists, and his second goal ended up being the game-winner. He even threw in a 17-10 mark on faceoffs for good measure.

2. Zach Sanford, St. Louis Blues

Despite a modest 13:19 in ice time on Thursday, Sanford helped lead the charge as the Blues humiliated a flustered Flames team. Sanford scored the game’s first goal (thus getting a GWG) and added three assists during a four-point performance that was almost as impressive as Giroux’s output.

If you’d prefer handing this star to Jordan Binnington for his 40-save shutout, that’s totally understandable.

3. Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers

Florida found itself down 4-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the second period, yet managed to enter the third period down a more palatable 4-2. From there, Ekblad took over, scoring a goal and an assist during the third period, then adding the overtime game-winner to lock up a comeback win for Florida. Like Giroux, Ekblad came into the night’s action on a cold streak, having only managed a goal over seven games.

For me, Ekblad’s little trot after the OT-GWG breaks the tie with other players who scored three points on Thursday:

Highlight of the Night

No doubt about it, that goes Tuukka Rask, whose save rivals Marc-Andre Fleury for the save of the week/month/year. This post has more.

Benn the Bulldozer

On a less busy night, Jamie Benn trucking Mark Scheifele than scoring a pretty game-winning goal would be the top dog. It’s at least worth watching:

Factoids

  • The Panthers have now overcome four-goal deficits to win games twice in 2019-20, joining the 1983-84 Oilers as the only teams to manage such wins twice in the same season, according to NHL PR.
  • Sportsnet notes that the Flames are on a streak of 362:46 without taking a lead, the longest stretch in franchise history. Um, at least they haven’t squandered any leads, then? The Maple Leafs’ run without a lead ended at 446:47 when Tyson Barrie scored the opening goal on Thursday, also according to Sportsnet.
  • Via NHL PR: Cale Makar is the first Avs/Nordiques rookie defenseman to generate at least 15 points in a single month, and sixth overall among the franchise’s defensemen.

Scores

BOS 3 – BUF 2
FLA 5 – ANA 4 (OT)
NYI 4 – PIT 3 (OT)
PHI 5 – CAR 3
CBJ 5 – DET 4
STL 5 – CGY 0
VAN 6 – NSH 3
MIN 3 – COL 2
TBL 4 – CHI 2
DAL 5 – WPG 3
TOR 3 – ARI 1
SJS 2 – VGK 1 (OT)
LAK 5 – EDM 1

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Maple Leafs end skid in first Babcock-less game

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If it weren’t for Vinnie Hinostroza spoiling Frederik Andersen‘s shutout with 17 seconds left, Thursday would have been just about perfect for the Toronto Maple Leafs during their first game post-Mike Babcock.

Most importantly, the Maple Leafs ended their six-game losing streak with a win. (Yes, that makes brand-new head coach Sheldon Keefe 1-0-0.)

The symmetry starts to go up a notch when you consider that, on this night, Tyson Barrie finally scored his first goal of the 2019-20 season, which is also his first with the Maple Leafs. Barrie is up there when you picture Leafs with relief of Babcock grief, so scoring here almost feels on-the-nose:

That Barrie goal gave the Maple Leafs a coveted 1-0 lead, and that’s quite a reversal from how things could have felt if Andersen didn’t make this great glove save (which would have stood out even more if Tuukka Rask didn’t give Marc-Andre Fleury competition with an absolutely ludicrous stop).

The underlying numbers are promising, too. In particular, it has to be uplifting to see that the Maple Leafs managed an impressive 18-7 advantage in high-danger chances at all strengths, according to Natural Stat Trick.

There’s a lot to like for the Leafs, but there’s also no denying that the Maple Leafs have a lot of work to do — and a hole they need to dig out of. That win merely brought them back to “.500,” as they’re now 10-10-4 for 24 standings points in 24 games. They wouldn’t make it into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they began on Thursday night, and Toronto’s ninth place standing is even inflated when you realize that teams right behind them hold games in hand. (Toronto’s 24 games played ties for the most in the NHL, while teams like the Lightning [22 points in 19 GP] loom large.)

Ultimately, though, the Maple Leafs can only control what they’re doing on the ice. So far, so good then, when you consider how they’re playing with Keefe pulling the strings instead of Babs.

More on Babcock, Leafs:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blues’ Dunn levels Flames’ Mangiapane with huge hit

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These are painful times for the Calgary Flames … sometimes literally.

By falling 5-0 to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, the Flames have now dropped six consecutive games. It’s hard not to think a little bit about the Toronto Maple Leafs firing Mike Babcock amid their slump when considering the Flames’ own struggles, both now and in their own disappointing showing in Round 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Talk of big changes (to coaching, Johnny Gaudreau, the GM, or anything else) can wait for another day … maybe one soon? For now, let’s bask in the fearful glow of Vince Dunn‘s hit on Andrew Mangiapane, as you can witness in the video above this post’s headline.

Is that hit symbolic of the Flames’ pains lately, or could you best embody that agony by comparing the team to its most snakebitten player, Sam Bennett?

Either way, these are uncomfortable times for the Flames, and not just Mangiapane.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.