On multiple nights this season, the Coyotes have scrapped away wins they probably didn't deserve, winning games they shouldn't have. Last night, in Winnipeg, the Coyotes learned how it felt to be on the other side of this affair. Arizona appeared to control the play for the majority of the match but some individual efforts from the Jets and some spectacular errors by key Coyotes resulted in a 2-3 loss for the visitors.
Antoine Vermette started the night by continuing what might be his worst season yet. The Chicago Blackhawks don't seem to be suffering too badly from a Stanley Cup hangover, but Vermette certainly does. In a high intensity first period that featured both sides taking chances and a steady flow of rushes, Vermette was stripped of the puck while trying to break out of the Coyotes defensive zone. The attacker, Mark Scheifele, then cut into the slot and shot the puck successfully past Lindback after 6:50 of the first. Once again the Coyotes gave up the first goal of the match to add to the painful recent memories of the Coyotes' holidays in New York and Columbus - and it looked like history might repeat itself. The sheer brilliance of Scheifele burned its image info the Coyotes' fans' minds and left all pondering ‘will the real Vermette please stand up?'
Alas, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker and Captain Coyote himself, had other ideas about how the night should unfold. While debating American politics on the point, because that is how the Coyotes spend their power-play time instead of shooting goals, Ekman-Larsson overheard Tyson Nash discussing about how Boedker's ‘pass first' mentality had become predictable on the power-play, making it easy for opponents to counter. Not one to have his ‘bestie' spoken poorly of, Ekman-Larsson suggested to Boedker to take a shot, which he did. At the same time, Shane Doan, having a sound early season for a 39 year old man, deflected the shot in for his 2nd goal in as many games.
Now the Coyotes took hold of the match. Gifted another power-play by Dustin Byfuglien, Connor Murphy teamed up with Michael Stone and Vermette to rip another shot in from the point. This one went in without the need for a deflection and Vermette was able to partially make amends for his costly error earlier in the period. Unfortunately, for a power-play unit that seemed to have the Jets' awful penalty kill figured out, this was the last goal the Sedona Red would see for the remainder of the night despite having another 4 power-play opportunities while also out shooting the Jets.
During the second period the Coyotes were up 2 to 1 and continued to put the Jets under pressure with more shots. The Coyotes took control of the match and it seemed likely that they would score again soon. But Dustin Byfuglien, angered by his earlier penalty (or just his general angry nature) was out for revenge and delivered an equaliser at the 12:48 mark of the second period. Andrew Copp made a nice ‘give and go' play with Byfuglien after keeping a Coyotes' clearing attempt on-side. The goal came against the momentum of the period.
The Coyotes rounded out the period still controlling the play, but seemed rattled after Shane Doan was sent to the box for goalkeeper interference, despite being pushed into Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec appeared to be uninjured immediately after the incident and finished the second period before being swapped out with Michael Hutchinson for the third period. Shawn Cookson of CTV reported that Pavelec left the game on crutches and may miss ‘a while'. It seemed unfair that Doan was punished for the incident as he was pushed off balance and into Pavelec, but Coach Dave Tippett chose against using his coach's challenge for a review. It seemed clear that Doan had been wronged which makes it strange that Tippett didn't challenge it, but perhaps Tippett knew something we did not or simply forgot about the new rule.
In the third period both sides saw more power-play time, offering each team the opportunity to take the lead. The Coyotes spent 6 of the final 20 minutes on the power-play, while the Jets had 3 minutes and 53 seconds of powe-play time with 7 of those seconds providing them with a 5 on 3 man advantage chance. However, neither team were able to capitalize on their respective power players. As time went on, the Coyotes lost control of the match and begun to look tired, even on the power-play. Queue the ‘Ironside Siren' from Kill Bill and enter Michael Stone...
Dear Arizona Coyotes, you are meant to win games on the power-play, not lose them. Giving up their 5th short-handed goal of the season, Stone rushed back to collect a dumped puck during one of the Coyotes 3 power-play chances in the third period. Hot on his heels was Chris Thorburn, who, inspired by the individual efforts of Byfuglien and Scheifele before him, up-ended the larger Stone in a battle for the puck, dangled in-front of Lindback before back-handing the puck home for the game winner.
The Coyotes would get another power-play chance before the end of the match and even spend some time playing with a 6 on 4 man advantage, but could not get anything past Hutchinson. The match would end with Shane Doan chirping in the ears of a bloodied Blake Wheeler. Why? Who knows, but the potential that it might have something to do with Wheeler's complicated past with Arizona should make any Coyotes fan sweat. Doan, if it was not about that issue, fair enough. If it was, please let it go. The Jets beat the Coyotes fair and square, do not turn into a sore loser who targets the only player on the ice we could legitimately be upset at - because we should not still be upset about it, 7 years is too long to hold a grudge.
Who should the Coyotes turn their attention to? Probably Michael Stone and Antoine Vermette, both of whom managed to finish on -3 +/- for the night. Both players are part of the face of the franchise and both need to lift if Arizona is to find some consistency in their games. Stone, a Winnipeg native (the Coyotes' broadcast team wouldn't let us forget that), may have been trying to over-play the puck for local fans and needs to ensure he doesn't let where he is playing impact his play in the future, if he is to become a fully matured NHL defender. Anders Lindback's save % of .870 sound poor on paper, but his play was actually fairly solid. The goals against involving Vermette and Stone turnovers were difficult situations and the responsibility of those playing in front of him.
To finish on a positive note, Jordan Martinook and the Coyotes' penalty kill had an excellent night, going at a 100% kill rate. This is particularly pleasing given the absence of Nicklas Grossman. Martinook, alongside Zbynek Michalek made some drastic plays during the Jets' extended power-play in the third and did all they could to try and keep Arizona in the game. For further information on the game, such as basic statistics, the 3 Stars of the game and other notes, check out the Instant Recap.
The Coyotes now return to Gila River Arena to play another struggling pacific division team, the Anaheim Ducks. Puck drop is at 7.00pm Arizona time next Wednesday night and the game can be viewed live on Fox Sports Arizona Plus.