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Coyotes hang on to defeat Maple Leafs

by Jerry Brown /

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After the Arizona Coyotes ended their three-game losing streak in a high-scoring game against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, coach Dave Tippett was quick to point out the Coyotes wouldn't win many more games if their leaky defense continued to give up chances and goals.

The effort Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs was much closer to what he has in mind, especially early.

Sam Gagner and Martin Erat each scored a first-period goal, and goalie Mike Smith made 28 saves to help the Coyotes hold on for a 3-2 win against the Maple Leafs.

Arizona limited Toronto to four shots on goal in the game's first 28 minutes.

"You give up two goals, you have a chance. You give up five …" Tippett said, referring to the Coyotes' 6-5 win against the Capitals. "Smitty was solid, we were moving our feet, and for the most part our 5-on-5 play was pretty good. There are a lot of positives in this game."

Antoine Vermette made it 3-0 at 6:34 of the second period for the Coyotes, who are 4-2-0 at Gila River Arena and put in one of their best 60-minute efforts of the season. The Maple Leafs pushed hard down the stretch, but they couldn't make it all the way back

"You play the right way and you deserve to win games, and we deserved to win," said Smith, who came into the game with a 2-6-0 record and an .873 save percentage. "We talked about what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win. We did that for a more consistent time and we earned some bounces.

"We got the puck in deep and we held on to it. We didn't throw it away, and it turned into chances and goals. I hope we learned a lot from those. It shows drastically what we need to do."

Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson scored power-play goals for Toronto, which saw its three-game winning streak come to an end. Phil Kessel had two assists, giving him 16 points in the first 12 games.

"When you have a start like that, it puts you behind the eight-ball, and we were playing catch-up all night, and it cost us," Phaneuf said. "When you don't start well and do the things that are necessary to start well, you have to push hard to come back."

James Reimer made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs, who had 26 shots in the final 32 minutes, including some chances to tie the game late.

"It was a turtle start. It was slower than slow," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "It seemed like we were in neutral and they were in third gear and we were chasing."

Toronto did force the action early, and penalties 54 seconds apart by Brandon McMillan and Erat gave the Maple Leafs an extended 5-on-3 power play. But the Coyotes killed off the penalties without allowing a shot and didn't allow another for the rest of the period, a span of more than 12 minutes.

"It's hard to fathom we were so inept," Carlyle said of the power play. "We couldn't make two passes. We had a guy fall down twice on it. It's like 'What's going on out there?' And that's when you're helpless."

Meanwhile, the Arizona offense got going.

Lauri Korpikoski intercepted a pass by Toronto's Jake Gardiner behind the Maple Leafs net and slid a backhand centering pass to Gagner, who one-timed a shot over Reimer's shoulder to the short side at 10:29. It was the second goal in as many games for Gagner, who didn't have any in his first 10 games with Arizona.

Toronto is 5-0-0 when scoring first but 1-5-1 when surrendering the opening goal.

The Coyotes made it 2-0 at 15:35 on another hardworking play. Erat collected a Martin Hanzal pass, steamed behind the Toronto net and put a backhand shot off the skate of defenseman Stephane Robidas and by the helpless Reimer.

It was the fourth goal for Erat, who had three in 70 games with the Capitals and Coyotes last season.

It was more of the same early in the second period. Toronto had one shot in the first eight minutes, during which Arizona stretched its lead. Reimer stopped Vermette on the rush with a pad save, but Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk banked the puck off the end boards right to Vermette, who stuffed the puck behind Reimer at 6:34. It was Vermette's third goal, second in two games.

The Maple Leafs finally got on the board at 9:24, making the most of 17 seconds of 4-on-3 power play time. After Kessel gathered in a faceoff win, Tyler Bozak set up Phaneuf for a one-timer that Smith never saw thanks to van Riemsdyk's screen.

Phaneuf's first goal of the season gives him seven goals and 14 points in 24 career games against the Coyotes.

The Maple Leafs had 13 shots in the final 10 minutes of the period but didn't capitalize on the momentum they built. Smith made several good saves on the next Maple Leafs power play, stopping van Riemsdyk at one post and Bozak at the other on a rebound of a Gardiner shot.

Toronto did capitalize on Connor Murphy's slashing penalty in the third period to cut the deficit in half with another power-play goal. Smith made a pad save on Kessel, but van Riemsdyk slid the rebound neatly to Franson, who had half the net to put in his second goal.

"Those guys play a pretty tight system and they don't give you a whole bunch, so you have to capitalize on the chances you do get," Franson said. "You get down like that and you have to play more aggressive than you want. It's a regrettable game for us."

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