GLENDALE, ARIZ. - There is Phoenix Coyotes cold and then there is Vancouver Canucks cold.
The Coyotes entered Thursday night’s game against the Canucks with the longest current losing streak in the NHL at four. But the Canucks had dropped seven of their previous eight, including their worst loss in 10 years Wednesday night at Anaheim.
In a game that was little more than a special teams battle, Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith came up big, posting his first shutout of the season with 28 saves. The Coyotes produced just enough heat via an Antoine Vermette power-play goal to support him in a 1-0 win at Jobing.com Arena.
The shutout was Smith’s first since April 6, 2013, against the Colorado Avalanche and couldn’t have come at a better time for the struggling team or its struggling goalie, who had posted just three wins in his previous 20 starts. He had not won a game since Dec. 21 and had not posted a regulation win since Dec. 12.
“Hopefully we got the monkey off our back,” said Smith, who recorded his 25th career shutout. “It’s easy to get down on yourself and get negative when things aren’t going your way. It kind of just kept building and building until it’s not even fun anymore. So I brought a new mindset to the rink to enjoy the game and be more positive. It’s definitely helped me have more energy and feel better about my game.”
Vermette got the Coyotes on the board 12:51 into the first period when he corralled a puck in the corner on a power play and tried to slip a pass across the slot. The puck hit Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis’ stick and slid between Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack’s legs for a 1-0 lead.
That was all the offense Phoenix needed against Vancouver, which has one goal in its past three games.
The Coyotes were particularly effective on the penalty kill, which has been a problem area all season. With defenseman Zbynek Michalek back in the lineup after a 13-game absence, Phoenix killed off all seven Vancouver power plays.
“We always say that everyone in this room is important so when someone goes down it hurts,” Michalek said. “This is what I do. That’s my role: be good defensively and be good on the penalty kill.”
The Canucks continued their worst slump of the season, dropping their eighth game in their last nine outings. The loss came on the heels of the team’s most lopsided loss, a 9-1 defeat the night before at Anaheim.
“We’ve got to find a way to score some goals,” said winger Daniel Sedin, who hasn’t scored in the new year. “You can’t miss those chances. That’s frustrating, for sure.”
Vancouver wasn’t quite as feisty as it was the previous two games but still logged 20 penalty minutes to bring its three-game total to 162.
The win pulled Phoenix within four points of seventh-place Vancouver, which is now tied with Minnesota in points (57) in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have three games in hand on Minnesota and two in hand on Vancouver in the race for the conference’s final playoff spots.
“We need some points. It doesn’t matter how we get them,” Sedin said. “But we have to stay positive. We can’t lose our confidence.”
Coyotes C Antoine Vermette scored on a first-period power play for his first goal since his hat trick at Ottawa on Dec. 21. Vermette had just one point (an assist) in his previous 11 games. ... Vermette’s goal gave the Coyotes a power-play goal in six straight games. ... Vancouver entered the game having taken 142 penalty minutes in its previous two games, a 1-0 loss at Los Angeles and a 9-1 loss at Anaheim. ... Canucks RW Alex Burrows (IR, jaw) and G Roberto Luongo (ankle) continued to sit out. Luongo has not played since Jan.4; Burrows since Dec. 1. Burrows is expected to return against Calgary on Saturday. ... Coyotes LW Rob Klinkhammer was a healthy scratch for the first time all season. Klinkhammer (6-3, 220) has no points in his last four games and just two (two goals) in his last 15. The Coyotes also want him to be more of a physical presence.