Following last night's hard fought, but ultimately futile effort against the Minnesota Wild, the Coyotes traveled further north to Manitoba, Canada to take on the Winnipeg Jets. The Coyotes played an emotional and heavy game in the Excel Center on Saturday, trying to beat their former teammate and end a four game winning streak. They played hard but came short in defeat, and immediately had to turn around and play a game less than 24 hours later.
It's never easy playing back to back games and no one would have been surprised if the Coyotes played less than stellar hockey on Sunday. Especially after giving the Jets a quick lead on a bad play.
It all started with a bad turnover from Mikkel Boedker springing the Jets on a two on one break four minutes into the game. Andrew Ladd gained the zone and fed a pass over to Bryan Little who finished with a one timer that eluded a sprawling Mike Smith. Just like that, it was 1-0 Winnipeg. No one would have blamed the Coyotes if they rolled over right there. But give credit where credit is due, the Coyotes fought back. A little over three minutes later Shane Doan gained the puck below the goal line and circled behind the Winnipeg goal. He found Oliver Ekman-Larsson above the left face-off circle and OEL buried a game tying goal behind Ondrej Pavelec.
Both teams would exchange scoring chances and power plays the rest of the period, but neither team could break the deadlock and so the second period opened tied at one. But only for a short time before more Coyote breakdowns. Mike Smith played the puck behind the net and passed to Connor Murphy. Then it all went downhill.
That kind of goal could have broken a team, but again the Coyotes kept fighting. Mike Smith made some timely saves to keep his team in the game, locking down the net and holding the score at 2-1 through the end of the second. One of those saves was a beauty of a stop on a Winnipeg three on one at the end of the period that he might not have made a week ago.
Smith was good in this game, but the team let him down with some more timely mistakes. Keith Yandle made a terrific interception at center ice and led a two on one against the Jets. He fed a pass to Tobias Rieder, who missed his shot but put the puck back towards the net. Yandle got it and dropped a pass for Sam Gagner, but he fanned on his shot. With Yandle and Rieder below the circles, the Jets came back the other way with numbers. Smith tried, but couldn't keep Dustin Byfuglien from making it 3-1.
The reason this highlight is posted is because of the effort level the Coyotes showed. Watch it again and watch number 8, Rieder bust his hump to try and get back on the play. Rieder was great in this game and it's effort like this that has his star shining bright for this franchise.
Rieder's effort more than likely didn't go unnoticed on the Arizona bench and sparked the beginnings of a comeback. The Coyotes got another chance with the man advantage and Michael Stone launched a bomb onto Pavelec. Somehow Lauri Korpikoski got his stick on the shot and the puck found its way past the Jet netminder to halve the lead. Minutes later, Pavelec made a huge save on Keith Yandle that could have crushed the Yotes, but Shane Doan corralled the loose puck turned around at the blueline and threw the puck toward the net. Tobi Rieder was in front and "Rieder"-ected (credit to Coyote play by play man Matt McConnell for the phrase) the puck for the game tying goal.
Down two goal with under ten minutes left on the second game of a back to back should have been the end of it. The Coyotes wouldn't allow that and came back to tie things up. Yes, they couldn't finish the comeback as Little scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Jets the 4-3 win. But the Coyotes got a point in a game where they probably shouldn't have and normally wouldn't have. Say what you will about the skill on this team, but on this weekend, the Coyotes heart was on full display.
- The Coyotes outshot the Jets 31-30.
- The Coyotes went 1-4 on the power play and killed all three Jets' advantages.
- OEL scored his 12th goal of the season to tie him with Erik Johnson for the league lead for blueliners. Big Buff's goal would be his 12th as well.
- Shane Doan had two assists in his return to the lineup after missing the last two games.
- Originally Yandle was credited with an assist on the Rieder goal, which would have been his second helper of the night and his 300th career point. It was later given to Antoine Vermette so Yandle is back at 299.
Our Three Stars
- Mike Smith - Stopped 27 of 30 shots with a handful of acrobatic saves. Made 57 of 62 saves over the weekend.
- Bryan Little - Opened the scoring and finished it in the shootout.
- Tobias Rieder - Scored the game tying goal and had numerous chances all game.
The Road Ahead
The Coyotes roadie continues in the Windy City when they take on the Blackhawks Tuesday night. Make sure to watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona as they are taking over the Coyotes ticket office with a special offer.