TORONTO — If head coach Mike Babcock could change one thing about his Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, it would be their penalty kill.
Max Domi and Shane Doan scored first period power play goals as Toronto fell to the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. Klahs Dahlbeck scored in the second period and Kyle Chipchura struck in the third for the Coyotes as the Maple Leafs struggled to keep up with the visitors.
"Penalty kill wasn’t good enough, period," said Babcock. "If I look at the whole game, the part that I didn’t like, when things went bad on us we didn’t respond.
"Then I thought in the second when they scored their third goal, I thought that was, since I’ve been here, that wasâ€¦ I’ve never seen that before. I’ve never seen us compete at that level. We’re not competing at that level, that’s not going to happen."
James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Rielly scored third period goals pulling the Leafs to within one. Shawn Matthias had Toronto’s other goal.
Mike Smith made 24 saves for the Coyotes (5-3-1), who have now won three straight over the Leafs (1-5-2) dating back to last season.
Toronto entered Monday’s contest with the 25th-ranked penalty kill in the NHL and surrendered two goals on four power plays to the Coyotes.
"We just didn’t start well, they get two power-play goals — the (penalty kill) has to be better," said Rielly. "We have to continue to work at that and improve on that. That might’ve been the difference in the game."
Babcock was particularly frustrated at the Coyotes’ third goal.
Dahlbeck gave the Coyotes a 3-1 lead at 7:38 of the second beating Toronto goalie James Reimer short side for his second of the season. Reimer appeared to be partially screened by Leo Komarov on the goal, but accepted full blame post-game.
"That’s my fault, 100 per cent," said Reimer, who made 20 saves in his first regulation loss of the season. "I just lost it. I just lost sight of it for a half second and all of a sudden it was in the back of the net. It was one of those one in a million, I think, where I just lost it for a half second and it ended up going in."
Domi’s fourth goal of the season at 6:31 of the first period, gives the Coyotes’ forward 10 points helping him leapfrog Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the rookie scoring lead.
"This was a big game for everyone and we had some big goals from the whole lineup," he said. "It was fun to see and definitely fun to be a part of and we’ll take the win for sure."
Leafs third line centre Byron Froese played his way in to Babcock’s good books. The 24-year-old, who was recalled last Friday, finished Monday night winning 11 of the 17 face-offs he took while playing 16 minutes and six seconds.
"The positive in tonight’s game for me is 56," Babcock said of the Manitoba native. "Real simple. Just face-offs alone and compete alone.
"I’m optimistic that (Tyler) Bozak and (Nick) Spaling will make us a better hockey club, Froese is going to be in the lineup. We’re different down the middle already. We’re a better team."
Notes: The Arizona Coyotes lost forward Martin Hanzal to a lower body injury in the first period. Prior to Monday’s game Toronto announced Spaling suffered a lower body injury in Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens and is listed as day-to-day.