Despite a late comeback attempt, the Arizona Coyotes fell to the Tampa Lightning 4-2 behind Ondrej Palat's two goals. Michael Stone and Mark Arcobello scored for the Coyotes, and Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan also scored for Tampa.
Michael Stone scored the first goal of the game after Lauri Korpikoski forced an offensive zone turnover. Korpikoski jarred the puck loose off the stick of Tampa's Brett Connolly, then bounced it over right into Martin Erat's vicinity. Erat then quickly found Stone. Stone's slapper beat Ben Bishop easily over his right shoulder. Bishop wasn't given an intense workload over the course of the night, but his 20 saves on 22 shots proved enough for the victory.
Fast forward to the second period, after Dave Moss got called for the double minor, Arizona found themselves killing a four-minute penalty. The first three minutes were routine, but in the Tampa power play's fourth minute, an out-of-position Connor Murphy gave Ondrej Palat enough space to fire an uncontested slapshot reeling past Smith to tie the game. The Coyotes' goalie was a mixed bag, stopping 23-of-26 shots faced for a .885 save percentage, but he made some key saves throughout the game.
Moments later, Ryan Callahan had a golden opportunity to give Tampa their first lead of the game, but a full extension pad save from Mike Smith kept the game tied for the time being. Callahan would redeem himself later in the period with a backhand shot from an odd angle that snuck past Smith to give Tampa the lead.
In the third period, Tampa Bay appeared to begin to put some distance between themselves and the Coyotes. Ondrej Palat outmuscled Jordan Martinook for his second goal of the game to make it 3-1.
Arizona would not go gently into the good night, though. At about the eight-minute mark, the Coyotes peppered Ben Bishop with a flurry of several good scoring opportunities. After a shot from Michael Stone at the point, a scrum developed. In the chaos, the other four Coyote skaters would get a stick on the puck, but they would not score. They would minutes later though when Mark Arcobello stripped Steven Stamkos of the puck at the Arizona blueline. From there, nothing separated Arcobello from a breakaway goal to cut the Coyote deficit to one.
With three minutes left in the game, Tampa's Nikita Kucherov had an opportunity for the insurance goal, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson committed the holding penalty to possibly save the game. The moment that happened seconds later, however, was of particular interest, as Kucherov flicked Ekman-Larsson's stick away provoking a violent response from Arizona's favorite Swedish defenseman. That moment wasn't called a penalty, but possibly gave Arizona the emotional momentum necessary to kill the subsequent penalty.
Enter crunch time. With a minute left and an empty net, Arizona won the offensive faceoff, but when the puck reeled out the zone and a loose puck race ensued, Keith Yandle tripped Ondrej Palat. Despite the following penalty kill, Arizona still had a chance when Michael Stone laced an on-the-money seam pass to Shane Doan, but the referee called the play offsides. Stamkos would score an empty netter and his 32nd goal of the season moments later, effectively icing the game at 4-2.
The Coyotes played about as well as one could hope for against one of the league's best, but just couldn't convert late in the game. Still, the score effectively portrays how far the Coyotes have come since the beginning of the year when compared to the 7-3 beating the Coyotes withstood against Tampa earlier in the year. The offensive stagnation was still present, but the Coyotes were winning faceoffs (27-25 in the dot), forcing turnovers (11 Tampa giveaways forced and 6 takeaways) and blocking shots (20 compared to Tampa's 10)> The combination of all three bode well in terms of overall team effort and a return to the fabled "Tippett style". But sometimes, that just isn't enough against the more talented teams, such as Tampa Bay.
Our Three Stars
- Ondrej Palat - Two goals for the winning team, both of which were sniper-caliber bullets.
- Andrew Campbell - Stone may have scored, but Andrew Campbell left it all out on the ice tonight and was Arizona's best defender. Two blocked shots in particular appeared to injure No. 45, but he soldiered on.
- Michael Stone - A solid showing for Stone, who notched the Coyotes first goal and was key kog in Arizona's gameplan all night long.
- For the Tampa perspective, visit Raw Charge.
- Arizona scratches: BJ Crombeen and Zbynek Michalek
- Shots by period: 1st - 10-7 favoring Tampa, 2nd - 10-3 favoring Tampa, 3rd - 12-7 favoring Arizona
- Arizona special teams: 0-1 on the power play, and 5-for-6 on the penalty kill
- Mike Smith played 109 games for the Lightning from 2007-2011 before signing with the Coyotes.
- Mark Arcobello now has three goals in four games as an Arizona Coyote. What a waiver wire pickup!
Arizona hops on a plane immediately following this game and heads to Newark to take on the New Jersey Devils Monday night at the Prudential Center. Puck is scheduled to drop at 5:00 p.m. Arizona time.