Coyotes roughed up in season opener; fall 6-2 to Jets

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s a new era for hockey in the Valley. The Coyotes have a new name, a new name for their arena, new faces on the roster and a new attitude.

Too bad all that newness didn’t help them on Opening Night.

The Winnipeg Jets spoiled the party, scoring four goals in the first period to take complete command of the game and cruise to a 6-2 victory on Thursday night, in front of a stunned crowd of 17,125 at Gila River Arena

Jets’ center Bryan Little got the scoring started at the seven-minute mark of the first period with an assist from left winger Andrew Ladd.

The Coyotes would tie things up 38 seconds later when left winger Mikkel Boedker beat Jets’ goalie Ondrej Pavelec for his first goal of the season.

Things went downhill pretty quickly after that, as the Jets scored five unanswered goals to put things out of reach.

“We need better goaltending than that, it’s simple as that,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “I think Smitty would tell you that right straight out too.”

It seemed like the team lacked focus and had no discipline. The Coyotes committed nine penalties – seven in the first period alone. Combine that with the less than stellar play from Smith, and that spelled disaster for the Coyotes.

“That’s a problem there too, for him to play his best we need to play better in front of him, and too many errors with the puck, and too little discipline,” Tippett said. “Errors are when we take the first penalty of the game, we shoot the puck over the boards, we’re going to get a power play. We take in the discipline factor but when the power play is too much when we’re chasing the game already it’s a gift of getting back in it.”

Captain Shane Doan assisted on both Coyotes goals, and he even managed to let out his frustrations somewhat in a fight. To him, the team just flat out forgot how to execute on both ends of the ice.

“Oh yeah, obviously there were moments in our game that weren’t even close and there were moments when it was really good,” Doan said. “Tip, I’m sure, will be pointing out all the things that are wrong with our game, we will see them and make corrections and like I said we aren’t as bad as we think we are right now and obviously everyone thinks we’re pretty bad.”

Smith was pretty dejected in the locker room afterwards. He realized it was far from his greatest performance.

“I never got comfortable tonight,” Smith said. “It was just one of those games where I didn’t feel good on my feet, didn’t feel comfortable in the net and most of the time in those games, pucks hit things and they end up in the net, and if you’re feeling good, sometimes you keep them out.”

“That’s no excuse, you have to find a way to make saves when you’re not feeling your best either,” Smith said. “Tonight wasn’t a very good instance of that.”

The Coyotes will live and die by Smith and what he does between the pipes.

“The goaltending’s got to get better,” Tippett said. “If the goaltending doesn’t get better, then we’re gonna struggle.”

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