Pacific: Smith carrying Coyotes in hunt for division title

By Andrew Knoll

Photo: Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith has been perfect in his last three outings, keeping his team in contention for a division title (courtesy of

Chris Pondy/Icon SMI)

With the Coyotes’ playoff hopes on the line, goalie Mike Smith came up big—humungous big.

Smith withstood a franchise-record 54-shot onslaught to earn his third consecutive shutout in a 2-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Smith was the difference,” Columbus coach Todd Richards told reporters. “We peppered him pretty good, and thought we moved the puck well on the power plays. He made great saves throughout the game.”

He has long since emerged from the shadow of departed Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, as he will likely finish with better numbers literally across the board. Still, his recent performance has been the stuff of legend.

His glove save on James Wisniewski in the second period was a save-of-the-year candidate . Soon after, he stoned white-hot R.J. Umberger (five goals in his previous three contests) on a breakaway.

Smith has made 54, 44 and 38 saves during this three-shutout streak. The typically stout Coyotes have surrendered 30 or more shots in 10 of his last 11 starts.

Gilbert Brule and Boyd Gordon scored 123 seconds apart and that was all the Coyotes needed thanks to Smith.

“We gave up too many chances the last few games, and probably relying too much on Smith,” Gordon told reporters. “We have to play better if we want to win. He has been great for us all year, and he’s really carried us lately.”

Smith still credited his club for their efforts checking and blocking shots, though he also acknowledged that he had to shoulder a heavy load and lean on a bit of luck, too.

"I knew I was going to have to be big again tonight and obviously our team wasn’t at our best, but you’re going to have games like that through the season," Smith told reporters. "It wasn’t easy, obviously, but it was one of those nights where when I didn’t see it, they were kind of finding a way to hit me."

The win kept Phoenix in a points tie with Los Angeles, who leads the Pacific Division and owns the three seed at the moment. It also kept them a point ahead of San Jose, who won a monster road game in Dallas to put the Stars in serious trouble.

“We can win the division, and we’re all aware of that. So, it’s all about winning and not shutouts,” Smith told reporters.

“We haven’t proved anything yet, we have to make the playoffs and take a run at the Stanley Cup”

Pacific Division Notes

The Sharks bucked trends with their victory, they had lost 17 of their last 21 road games while the Stars had won six of their last nine at home. Logan Couture’s game-winning goal snapped a career-long, ten-game goalless drought … Douglas Murray did not play for San Jose but may return against the Kings …As the Stars circle the drain, they can point to this loss or any of the five of six meetings they dropped to the Sharks … The Ducks fell to Vancouver in a shootout 5-4 as they blew a two-goal lead in the third period. Devante Smith-Pelly, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan each had multi-point performances.