GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Philadelphia Flyers are in desperation mode as they chase an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Desperation wasn’t enough to solve the streaking Arizona Coyotes and red-hot goaltender Mike Smith on Saturday night.
Shane Doan scored his 26th goal of the season, Michael Stone added a goal before the second-period buzzer and Smith stopped 34 of 35 shots to pace the Coyotes to a 2-1 win over the Flyers in a physical game at Gila River Arena.
In five games since returning from a three-month absence after abdominal surgery, Smith has stopped 165 of 171 shots for a .965 save percentage. Arizona is 7-3-1 in its last 11 games.
“It wasn’t easy, but our D has been really solid,” Smith said. “We talked about having to get in shooting lanes because their defense is highly active and like to get a lot of pucks through from the point and they have some big guys that like to muck it up in front. We did a really good job of that tonight.”
Sean Couturier scored for Philadelphia, which got 15 saves from goalie Steve Mason.
The Flyers currently own the playoff tiebreaker with Detroit with a game in hand, but Philadelphia missed a chance to open a two-point lead on the Red Wings for the final wild-card spot in the conference.
“That’s the nature of this race,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We battled hard this entire road trip and we battled pretty hard tonight, but we came up on the short end.”
The Coyotes lost both of their goal-scorers to third-period injuries. Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas delivered a forearm to Doan’s head as Doan went to his knees and collided with the boards. Stone got his left leg tied up with left winger Michael Raffl in the corner and had to be helped to the dressing room. Neither returned.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux also left the game after Coyotes center Martin Hanzal checked him headfirst into the boards.
Giroux went through concussion protocol, but Hakstol said “he felt pretty good” after the game.
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Doan was held out as a precaution but seems fine. Stone was still being evaluated but Tippett said it did not look good.
The Coyotes were not happy about Gudas’ hit, especially after Hanzal got a five-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct.
“Someone should explain to me how one is a five-minute and one is not,” Tippett said. “The hit on Doan is a blatant attempt (to injure). After Shane’s on the wall … it’s the elbow and the hip and looking down at Shane’s head with a guy who has had a history of that.”
The Coyotes and Flyers managed just 11 combined shots on goal in the first period.
Philadelphia had the best two chances. Smith stacked his pads from left to right to stop right winger Wayne Simmonds off a feed from Raffl. Smith also stopped former teammate Sam Gagner on a deflection.
Two hours after Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said he was certain his 39-year-old captain would return for another season, Doan scored to stake the Coyotes to a 1-0 lead at 15:37 of the second period.
With the Coyotes on the power play, left winger Alex Tanguay sprung center Antoine Vermette with a perfect pass off the half wall. Mason stopped Vermette’s shot with his blocker, but Doan beat Couturier to the slot to knock in the rebound.
The Coyotes’ power play had been one for its last 21 before the goal.
Arizona took a 2-0 with 0.5 of a second left in the second period when Stone’s shot from the point found an open net. Mason was so concerned with a battle between Coyotes left winger Max Domi and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning in the slot that he forgot to tend his goal.
The Flyers challenged the play for goaltender interference because Manning shoved Domi, who made minor contact with Mason. But officials ruled it a good goal.
As Domi skated away from Mason, Domi was caught on the cameras laughing at the goaltender while Mason pleaded his case with the referee.
“My mask pushed up to the side and my chin guard got up in my line of sight,” Mason said. “I couldn’t see a thing. I didn’t have enough time to get it adjusted. I’m not sure what their reasoning was.”
Couturier scored with 41 seconds remaining for Philadelphia.
NOTES: General manager Don Maloney responded to recent reports that the Coyotes might trade D Oliver Ekman-Larsson to acquire C Auston Matthews, this year’s presumed top pick in NHL Draft. “That will never happen,” Maloney said. … Ekman-Larsson was awarded an additional goal that was originally credited to C Martin Hanzal on Thursday against Dallas. The goal was his 20th of the season and gave him eight game-winning goals, an NHL record for a defenseman. … Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett played at North Dakota and are longtime friends. … Flyers RW Sam Gagner played his first game in Arizona since the Coyotes traded him to Philadelphia last June for D Nicklas Grossmann and retired D Chris Pronger’s contract. Gagner had the game-winning goal on Feb. 27 when the team’s met in Philadelphia. … Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc expects to make an announcement on the team’s future arena plans in the next six weeks. The team’s lease at Gila River Arena expires after next season. The team is exploring at last four other locations.