GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Mike Smith made a couple of tough saves in the opening minutes and later skated out to the boards to clear a puck and set up a scoring chance at the other end.
In other words, he looked a lot like the goalie who led the Phoenix Coyotes to the Western Conference finals a year ago.
So did the team in front of him.
Playing with confidence and poise for the first time this season, Smith stopped 17 shots, and the Coyotes were at their tight-checking best in front of him, leading to a 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
"He looked like Smitty out there," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "It's the first game I'd say he looked confident all year."
After a loose start to the season, the Coyotes have been steadily building toward a game like this, getting back to the stay-at-home style that led them to the conference for the first time as an NHL franchise last season.
Phoenix kept the Stars to the outside offensively most of the night while getting sticks and their bodies in the way whenever they tried to shoot, holding Dallas without a shot for a 17-minute stretch of the second period.
When the Stars did get a shot on goal, Smith was there to turn it away, notching his 20th career shutout and first this season.
Nick Johnson scored his third goal of the season and Mikkel Boedker his second for the Coyotes, who have points in four straight games.
"We felt we've played solid for stretches of games, we just haven't finished a full 60 minutes," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "We were a little sloppy in the first period and Tip kind of gave it to us during the break. That second period was more like how we're going to have to play to win."
The Stars struggled most of the season offensively, coming into the game as one of the NHL's lowest-scoring teams. Dallas has had some luck against the Coyotes, though, scoring seven of its 17 goals in two wins against them.
That trend ended abruptly Saturday night.
Unable to solve Phoenix's push-it-to-the-outside defense or keep out of the penalty box, Dallas managed nine shots in the first two periods and allowed Phoenix to have seven power-play chances to lose for the fifth time in six games.
The Stars have been outshot in all nine games this season and are 1-14-2 in the second game of back-to-backs the past two seasons, including 0-3 this year.
"It comes down to penalties," Stars defenseman Trevor Daley said. "It you're going to be killing penalties, you're not going to get many chances. It's been kind of a theme around here right now."
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