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Gretzky puzzled by fading Coyotes

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts while the Penguins think of what to do next ...

Fading fast -- Make it six-straight losses at Arena for the reeling Phoenix Coyotes.

Wayne Gretzky's club failed to provide offense again Monday night, and the end result was a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. The Coyotes have dropped nine of 10 on home ice and have fallen from fifth to 13th place in the Western Conference.

Phoenix had a golden opportunity to tie the game late, as it went on the power play with 2:33 remaining and soon pulled Mikael Tellqvist in favor of a sixth attacker. But the Coyotes couldn't set things up in the Oilers' zone for more than a few seconds at a time and failed to get the equalizer.

"You need to score goals," said Gretzky, who found the back of the net 894 times in his NHL career. "It's the time of the year where we count on guys to score big goals and we're not getting them."

Ed Jovanovski scored the lone goal Monday night for the Coyotes, which came at 19:57 of the second period. Phoenix captain Shane Doan mustered only two shots on goal in more than 25 minutes of ice time. Peter Mueller came up with the same amount in nearly 22 minutes.

"We let their power play score and win and we had some chances in the third and our power play didn't do it for us," Doan said. "We didn't bury our chances. When it came down to us having to score, we didn't score."

Sens do it again -- If this keeps up, the Ottawa Senators may find themselves back in the playoff race.

Ottawa won for the fifth time in seven games under new coach Cory Clouston, as it earned a 2-0 victory at Nashville on Monday night. The Sens are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 52 points, but are 5-1-1 since Clouston replaced Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 2. Alex Auld made 24 saves for his first shutout of the season.

"We got off to a really good start, in the second we were a little bit complacent, and then in the third we played really well, really solid defensively," Clouston said. "I thought Alex looked really comfortable in goal and did exactly what we needed him to do."

Nick Foligno quickly gave Ottawa some momentum when he beat Pekka Rinne just 5:20 into the game. Dany Heatley made it 2-0 with his 26th goal of the season with 6:04 remaining in the first. Ottawa outshot the Predators 13-8 in the opening period.



"We had a good first period, obviously Nick had a big goal to start us off, and to come out of the first period up 2-0 is a good start," Heatley said. "Initially I was looking to pass, but the defenseman did a good job of taking that away so I was just trying to get a corner and I was lucky to get it in off of his arm."

Mike Fisher attributed the Sens' recent success to their improved play between the blue lines. Ottawa will look to make it six in a row Tuesday night at Colorado.

"We got off to a great start in the first period," Fisher said. "Our neutral-zone play these last few games has been night and day different from before. We are creating turnovers and because of that we are allowed to use our speed and skill and go the other way."

Getting frustrated -- Considering just how horrific the New York Rangers have been offensively as of late, Henrik Lundqvist basically has no margin for error from the first drop of the puck.

Such was the case again Monday night. The end result was New York's eighth loss in nine games.

Lundqvist was solid -- he stopped 31 of 33 shots -- but the players in front of him once again struggled to score goals in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center. The Blueshirts were outshot 14-4 in the third period and their power play has connected once in the last 34 opportunities.

"You see when they score a goal, we totally lose our composure and start running around," Lundqvist said. "It takes a lot for us to bounce back from a goal because everybody gets so tight."

Rangers coach Tom Renney believes his power play -- which went 0-for-3 -- actually showed signs of snapping out of its funk. It will get another chance Wednesday night when the New York Islanders visit Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts are 1-6-2 in their last nine games and have been outscored 33-13 during that span.

"We got four power-play shots, which might not sound like a lot," Renney said. "But for us, that's an accomplishment. We had traffic, the shots were intelligent shots, so what we're doing right now is trying to rebuild our foundation, if you will."

Déjà vu -- Two days after tying a game in the final minute of regulation only to lose in a shootout, the Los Angeles Kings suffered the same exact fate Monday night at the Staples Center.

Anze Kopitar's second goal of the game came with five seconds left, but Erik Christensen scored in the fourth round of the shootout as the Kings dropped a wild 7-6 decision to the Atlanta Thrashers. On Saturday, Dustin Brown scored a power-play goal at 19:34 of the third period to erase a 2-1 deficit against the Edmonton Oilers, only to lose in the shootout.

While L.A. failed to pick up two points in the standings, it did manage to rally from a three-goal deficit in the third period. Trailing 6-3, Kopitar scored twice and Denis Gauthier notched his first goal of the season to help the pesky Kings force overtime.

"Coming back from down three goals, you've got to be happy with that," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "There was a lot of dig in to come back and tie it up."

Still, the Kings did lose all three games on their homestand, picking up just two of a possible six points. Los Angeles now has back-to-back games in Anaheim and San Jose on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

"This time of the year you want to get two points, not just one," Kopitar said. "Maybe we're fortunate enough to get one but that's not enough. To give up six goals at home, it's hard and it definitely shouldn't happen."

Looking for more -- Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock is awfully pleased with R.J. Umberger these days, and rightfully so. Umberger scored twice in the second period in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Monday night at Nationwide Arena.

But Hitchcock wants more out of others up front. He didn't name anyone specifically, but the Blue Jackets managed only six shots on goal in the third period after peppering Marty Turco with 33 during the first 40 minutes.

"We have to get more help from our people up front if we expect to go to the next level," he said. "We don't have enough consistency from some people. We need to address some of our forwards' play, to find a way to help them get more from their own game. If we're going to be a playoff team ... we need to get more from some people."

Obviously, Umberger doesn't fall into that category. The gritty forward had seven shots on goal and scored twice in the second period to give his team a 2-1 lead. He now has 19 goals this season.

"I think he's trying to carry the team right now," Hitchcock said. "I think he's doing a hell of a job. He's playing with great speed, he's comfortable playing center ice. He's winning key face-offs. He is an absolute horse out there right now."

That being said, Hitchcock knows Umberger can't do it alone. The inability to help Umberger prevented Columbus from going six games above .500 for the first time in franchise history.

"We've had games like this, where we outplayed the other team and didn't win the game," Hitchcock said. "When we went up 2-1 and had all those chances, we left the game out there."

New coach, same result -- After yet another loss to a team to which they simply shouldn't lose, the Pittsburgh Penguins responded to questions regarding the firing of coach Michel Therrien. Nine months after guiding the club to the Stanley Cup Final, Therrien was replaced by Dan Bylsma on an interim basis.

"I was a little bit surprised, but the team is struggling, so things can happen," captain Sidney Crosby said of the change following a 3-2 shootout loss Monday afternoon to the New York Islanders. "The first time we met him was at a team meeting this morning, and then we went through our normal pregame routine."

Monday's loss came two days after Pittsburgh jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to allow six unanswered goals -- five in the third period -- in a 6-2 loss at Toronto.

"We weren't meeting expectations," Crosby said. "At the end of the day, it's still up to us to play. We have to find ways to win games. There's not a ton of time left, but there's still enough to change our fate."

If there were any positives to take from Monday, the Pens can at least say they gained a point in the standings. Obviously, the biggest challenge for Bylsma down the stretch is to find ways to get 60-minute efforts out of his inconsistent club.

"If you do, you tip the scales in your favor," the new coach said. "I think with the little time we've had together, as the game went on, we got more in tune with the way we should be playing."

Contact Brian Compton at:

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.


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