Heading east on their first important road trip of the season, the Phoenix Coyotes appear to be limping, not strutting, out to Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport.
So far in the young NHL season, the Coyotes have two wins in their first six games, including two losses in overtime. Compare that to the four wins in their first six games last season, and things now appear much less glorious.
That's because in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday night in front of a crowd of 8,189 at Jobing.Com Arena, the Coyotes made so many mistakes, and appeared so porous, that they were lucky to escape with one point before heading on the three-game road trip.
The Coyotes fell behind 3-0 early in the final period, and only a heroic effort from Kyle Turris, who scored twice and assisted on Scott Upshall's tying goal with 1:40 remaining in the final period, allowed Phoenix to escape with one point.
"Full marks to get a point, but, in reality, if we play like that, we will not be successful," said coach Dave Tippett. "Plenty of errors, just plain errors. Physical and mental. [The Hurricanes] are a good transition team and we bought into that."
Following a split of a two-game home stand, Phoenix now enters the hockey heavens of Montreal, Ottawa and Detroit, beginning with the Canadiens Monday night at the Bell Centre.
Noting Tippett's line about marginal play, the Coyotes speed was all but absent against the Hurricanes, as was their aggressiveness along the boards. As a result, the 'Canes controlled play until late in the final period. Through the first two periods, Carolina amassed 29 shots on Ilya Bryzgalov and skated off with a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes to play.
After Sergei Samsonev pushed Carolina's lead to 3-0 with his second goal of the season at 1:21 of the final period, Turris added two goals and assisted on Upshall's third of the season late in the final session to force overtime.
For his part, Turris reminds himself of the purgatory that is the minor leagues, and believes he must push himself hard to remain at the NHL level.
"I just want to contribute any way I can," he said. "Yeah, it's been frustrating knowing I have had opportunities. [Being a former No. 1 pick] will always have pressure, but I just want to contribute."
The effort of Turris and the heroics of Upshall could not save the Coyotes from Tippett's wrath. The timing for the Coyotes to have a clunker was equally telling because the team is missing its captain Shane Doan (serving the second game of a three-game suspension), and center Martin Hazel, out with a lower-back injury.
"Any time you have players of Doan's and Hanzel's caliber out, the margin of error is even slimmer," Tippett added. "Players did not respond. Sure, it's okay to get a point from a game like this one. I'm looking at the big picture, and to be successful, we cannot play like we did [Saturday night]."