GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Washington Capitals have already clinched the best record in the NHL. They were playing for the second consecutive night and third time in four days.
The energy wasn’t there, and the Arizona Coyotes pounced.
Mike Smith stopped 31 shots for his second shutout since returning from injury, Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 27 seconds apart early in the third period, and the Coyotes knocked off the Capitals, 3-0, on Saturday night.
Brad Richardson also scored in the third period and Max Domi had two assists in teaming with Doan on a dominant night by Arizona’s second line.
“We were just playing hard enough,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “There wasn’t enough urgency in our game.”
Doan redirected Domi’s shot past Philipp Grubauer for his team-high 27th goal at 5:18. Ekman-Larsson quickly followed with a point shot that deflected off Washington’s T.J. Oshie’s stick and over Grubauer’s shoulder for his team-best 52nd point.
“It kills your mojo a little bit,” Oshie said of the odd caroms.
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov each hit the post after that, but Richardson put it away with his 10th goal with 6:02 left.
Smith has stopped 225 of 234 shots since his 40-game absence because of a core muscle injury. It was his 30th career shutout.
“Smitty was excellent, we caught a team on a back-to-back and we were able to capitalize on a chance or two,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett said.
Grubauer made 24 saves filling in for No. 1 goaltender Braden Holtby in the Capitals’ second loss in three games since claiming the Presidents’ Trophy.
It was only Washington’s third shutout, but its second in five games.
“We hit two posts and that’s just karma,” Trotz said. “That’s just a reminder you’ve got to compete at the level your opposition was.”
Unlike a night earlier at the Colorado Avalanche, when several shots off the post didn’t prevent their franchise single-season record 55th win, the Capitals lost in regulation for only the 17th time.
“The last two games we’ve hit seven posts,” Grubauer said. “Maybe not on our lucky side right now, but I’m sure when the playoffs come around they’re going to go in for us.”
The Capitals have locked up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, so the big milestone left is getting Holtby two more victories to surpass Martin Brodeur’s record of 48 wins set in 2006-07 with the New Jersey Devils.
A night after making 17 saves, Holtby was given the day off, and Washington started sluggish as it played a second consecutive night without injured center Nicklas Backstrom
The Coyotes were playing their final home game, two nights after a loss in Dallas eliminated them from playoff contention for the fourth consecutive year.
Smith kept it scoreless through two periods by making 14 saves in the middle period, the best a snap glove save of Ovechkin’s wrist shot off a two-on-one.
“No one wants to have your last home game be a regular-season game,” Doan said, “but if you do, you want to find a way to win it, and it’s nice to do, especially against that team.”
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