Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was not pleased with the ice surface at Gila River Arena after his team’s 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
Smith made a puck-handling error in the third period that led to a Pittsburgh goal and while he noted he should have made a better decision in that situation, he slammed the lack of ice quality and how it made the play more difficult.
With the Coyotes up 3-1 on the Penguins in the frame and trying to lock down a win, Smith tried to play the puck on the power play in order to start a breakout. But he seemed to misjudge the speed of the puck and whiffed as he rushed to get it out of harm’s way. Penguins forward Josh Archibald quickly pounced and put the puck in the net at the 14:38 mark.
“You can’t play on that (ice),” Smith said according to the Arizona Republic. “When you got other teams coming in complaining about it on the ice, we have to skate on that all the time. It’s not an excuse, but it’s something that has to get better. It’s like slush out there. That puck was going to come out of the trapezoid, and then it just ended up stopping dead right on the line. I didn’t know know if I could play it or not on the line, so I kind of panicked for a second and then after I got control of it, obviously the rest is history.
“That play can’t happen. I understand that, but that ice is a joke.”
Smith is known as one of the better puck-handling netminders in the NHL. This ability can sometimes lead to highlights, as it did during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. But sometimes Smith can be too aggressive when playing the puck, and this got him in trouble Saturday.
“That play changed the complexion of the game,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. “We had the lead and things were going pretty smooth … but that gave them life, and then we were hanging on for dear life.”
Said Archibald, “We were told before the game to pressure him … sometimes he’ll cough up the puck. I guess I put a little too much pressure on him, and he kind of gave it right to me.”
This brought the score to 3-2 in favor of Arizona. Penguins forward Phil Kessel then scored with 14.2 seconds left in the third to tie the game at 3-3 and send it into overtime.
There, Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy scored at the 4:38 mark to give the Arizona the 4-3 win, and save the extra point they almost lost.
Despite the miscue on Pittsburgh’s second goal, Smith played well, stopping 28 of 31 shots on goal. He also held Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby without a goal or an assist. This kept Crosby two points away from 1,000 for his career. Crosby will next have a shot to hit the mark Tuesday at home against the Vancouver Canucks.
Crosby was held without a point Thursday at the Colorado Avalanche. The Penguins’ captain has now been kept off the scoreboard for two straight contests for the first time in 68 regular season games. Crosby notched his 998th point on Feb. 7 against the Calgary Flames.
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