Dvorak finally finding NHL form

The Canadian Press
Darren Haynes

CALGARY–It’s clear that Christian Dvorak has shaken off the rookie jitters.
Arizona’s centre had two goals and an assist, and Mike Smith made 36 saves for his 32nd career shutout, as the surging Arizona Coyotes won 5-0 over the Calgary Flames last night.
Dvorak’s third multi-point effort in the last five games gives the rookie five goals and seven points over that span.
“The first 20 or 30 games, he’s just happy to be in the league,” noted Coyotes’ head coach Dave Tippett.
“As he recognizes that he’s capable of playing here, and he’s doing things right and he’s not in awe of people anymore.
“He just goes out there and plays, and he’s a really good player,” Tippett added.
This hot stretch comes after the former London Knights’ star–linemates last year with Toronto’s Mitch Marner and Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk–had just 13 points in the season’s first 45 games.
“I’m definitely feeling more comfortable and more confident as the season has gone on,” noted Dvorak.
“Gelling with my linemates, forming some chemistry, and we’ve been playing pretty well as of late.”
Dvorak’s eighth goal of the season came 2:39 into the second period when he whippd a shot over Chad Johnson’s glove.
Justin Martinook made it 3-0 less than 90 seconds later and then at 11:08 on an odd-man rush, Dvorak showcased his passing ability.
Carrying the puck down the wing, he found Luke Schenn in the high slot and as the defenceman cut to the net, he had the puck glance in off Ryan White’s skate.
“If the shot is there, I’ll shoot it,” said Dvorak, a second-round pick in 2014. “If the pass is there, I’ll pass it.
“I’m just trying to make some plays out there while making sure I’m responsible defensively, as well,” he stressed.
Smith was busiest in the first period when the Coyotes were outshot 19-9 yet emerged with a 1-0 lead on a goal by Martin Hanzal.
“We were able to weather that storm and get out of that first period ahead,” noted Tippett.
“We hadn’t played our best hockey yet so it was definitely nice to come back in the second, get our feet moving, make some plays.”
Arizona (19-28-7) has points in four-straight games (3-0-1) and are 6-2-1 in their last nine–and those two regulation-time losses both were one-goal games.
Calgary (28-26-3), coming off its five-day bye week, had been on a roll–winning four of its previous five heading into the time off.
“We weren’t sharp,” conceded Flames’ coach Glen Gulutzan.
“It was more execution,” he said. “Some pucks missed the net, were shot over the net.”
Shortly after Gulutzan replaced Johnson with Brian Elliott to start the third period, Dvorak adding his second at 2:12.
“We’re either really good or really bad. There’s no middle right now,” said Johnson, who had 19 stops to fall to 17-13-1.
Elliott stopped eight-of-nine.
Smith improved to 14-15-6 and earned his second shutout of the season.
It was his 21st shutout with the Coyotes, tying him with Nikolai Khabibulin and Ilya Bryzgalov for the franchise lead.
“Guys have embraced it,” Smith said on the role of spoiler.
“Guys have grasped onto it that we want to continue to improve, continue to get better, and we want to be a calibre of the teams we’re playing against,” he added.
The N.Y. Rangers edged Columbus 3-2 in the only other NHL game last night.