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Goalie Smith doing his best to will Phoenix into playoffs

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his last three games, Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has faced 136 shots and not one of them has made it into the net.

The trio of shutouts was capped by his most spectacular performance yet. Smith's 54 saves in Tuesday night's 2-0 victory over Columbus are the most in a regular-season shutout victory in NHL history. Even more impressively, he did it despite seven Blue Jackets power plays.

"It wasn't easy, obviously," Smith said, "but pucks just seemed to be hitting me."

As General Manager Don Maloney put it, Smith "is willing us into the playoffs." A team that opened the season with goalie as a perceived weakness has relied heavily on Smith all season, and his best efforts have come when the Coyotes needed them most as they work to survive an incredibly tight scramble for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. A loss by Dallas or just getting to overtime either tonight at St. Louis or Saturday at Minnesota will clinch the Coyotes a playoff spot.

Smith's streak began last Thursday against San Jose as Phoenix began a crucial three-game home stand. That 2-0 victory was followed Saturday by a 4-0 triumph over Anaheim, then the 2-0 triumph over Columbus. Overall, Smith has gone 219 minutes and 59 seconds without allowing a goal.

"I've always been a fan of Schmitty," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who worked with Smith when both were in Dallas. "What is very gratifying is how he's embraced the role. His will to win is unbelievable right now."

"It's been as fun to watch as anything," team captain Shane Doan said after the team practiced on Wednesday. "Not just the way he's playing but the flair he likes to play with. When you have the best player on the team, sometimes you find yourself watching him. He's been incredible."

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Around the boards

*Lightning star Steven Stamkos didn't score, despite several good chances, and remained two goals short of 60, as his team dropped a 5-2 decision at Montreal. Tampa Bay has two games left in the season.

*Johan Franzen scored twice in the third period and Todd Bertuzzi netted the lone goal in a shootout as Detroit rallied to beat St. Louis, 3-2, in a shootout.

*Montreal goalie Carey Price will miss the rest of the season with a mild concussion.

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