The Coyotes have looked an awful lot like the walking wounded recently, with injuries to many key cogs in the early going of the season. Despite those injuries, the Coyotes were riding points in back-to-back games for their first night of a home and home series with the Dallas Stars.
I will admit that I got home a few minutes late from work and missed the first five or so scoreless minutes of the game, but the impression I had was that the Coyotes came out looking pretty good, but it was short-lived. Dallas rookie Antoine Roussel, playing in his first career NHL game would be the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce as the puck skipped away from defenseman Michael Stone allowing Roussel to come in alone and beat Smith to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Just a few minutes later, fellow rookie Brenden Dillon would sneak a slap shot through a lot of traffic to give the Stars a 2-0 advantage.
The Coyotes would retake momentum thanks to a strong forecheck and winning some offensive zone 50-50 battles for the puck by the top line of Hanzal, Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata. Oliver Ekman-Larsson put the puck towards the net and Vrbata deflected it in the high slot to bounce past Kari Lehtonen and halve the Dallas lead heading in to the first intermission.
Just 45 seconds into the 2nd period (and a mere second after a Coyotes power play expired), Martin Hanzal would find a rebound of an OEL slapper and put it back on Lehtonen who misplayed the bouncing puck over his left leg pad, off his glove and into the net to tie the game at 2. The Stars would retake the lead later in the second as Michael Ryder took a wrist shot that deflected off of OEL and past Smith. Hanzal would again score the equalizer on a strong offensive play leading the rush and taking a shot off of a bouncing David Moss pass to tie the game at 3.
The third period and overtime would go quietly with the teams exchanging opportunities but the puck simply not finding its way into the back of the net. The best opportunity came for Dallas as Smith nonchalantly played a puck behind his net to a Stars forechecking forward who slid a pass across the goal mouth to a wide open Loui Erikkson who simply could not corral the bouncing puck and put it in the gaping net.
In the shootout, Vrbata would score on his patented forehand-backhand roof-shot move, but Smith could not stop efforts from Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr despite getting his body on both shots before they trickled by. The Stars would win in 4 rounds with Boedker, OEL, and Antoine Vermette getting stopped for the Coyotes.
Five For Winning
Ignore ownership drama. Easier said than done, but if any coaching staff and team can do so it's this group. There is nothing they can do about the issue. All they can do is play hockey just like they have for the past 3 plus years. Hard to say that the team looked at all distracted, but they played a good enough game to get a point and battled back from a 2-goal and 1-goal deficit.
Crash the net. Kari Lehtonen is not likely to give up a goal on shots he can see unless they are top shelf lasers. Hanzal was in Lehtonen's kitchen all game including on 2 of the Coyotes goals.
Stay out of the box. The Yotes have taken their fair share of ‘dumb' penalties so far this season including a couple of too many men on the ice ones this week. The Stars now have a dangerous power play with Whitney and Jagr on the roster. No need to activate it again like they did on opening night. The 'Yotes only took two minors that resulted in Dallas power plays and were able to kill both. Kyle Chipchura did get an instigator, fighting major and 10 minute misconduct after sticking up for OEL after a pretty ugly looking Dillon hit, but there was no man advantage for either team. Speaking of OEL, he had a rough night, taking an inadvertent high stick from Mike Smith in the third period after a puck deflected up and into the netting.
Contain JJ.. Jaromir Jagr torched the Coyotes with 2 goals and 2 assist in the season opener. The Coyotes best bet to stop him is to deny him the puck. Once he has it it's extremely hard to get it away from his big body. For most of the game I don't recall even hearing Jagr's name except when he was called for the slashing minor...of course, he then scored the SO winner, so....
Don't give them confidence. Phoenix has cleaned up a lot of their defensive mistakes this past week mistakes and Dallas has had trouble scoring. The Yotes need to keep up their strong play in their own zone and hopefully frustrate the Stars in the process. A few defensive breakdowns led to some scoring opportunities and Dallas was able to cash in on two favorable deflections, but overall the defense was more reminiscent of the recent 'Yotes games than opening night.
Our Three Stars
1. Martin Hanzal - looked like he almost deflected the first goal and then scored the other 2; a big game back as he looked fast and in command of the top line tonight.
2. Radim Vrbata - goal and an assist, plus a goal in the shootout; reunited with Hanzal and he looked like the 35-goal scorer again on the ice.
3. Antoine Roussel - goal in his first career NHL game; pretty good move too.
Official Game Highlights
[I'm having trouble accessing the game highlights, but they are available at the Coyotes website here]
Comment of the Night
I’m at rula bula with a Guinness and the game on. I’m in my happy place
-Carl Pavlock (that is indeed one happy place :)
Same two teams are at it again tomorrow night at 6 PM at Jobing.com Arena. Can the Coyotes exact some measure of revenge against this pesky Dallas squad or is another 4-3 defeat in their future.