After falling apart and melting down against the struggling Winnipeg Jets, something had to change. And something did. A big roster change-up and a pair of scratchings seemed to flick the switch for the Coyotes as they avoided a drubbing against the ‘best in the West’ Minnesota Wild.
Arizona even went one better than avoiding a drubbing, and went toe-to-toe with Minnesota before suffering at the hands of Nino Niederreiter and the Wild’s Power Play units, falling to a final score of 4 goals to 3.
But as far as losses go in a rebuilding season with a young team, Arizona’s performance was far from ugly and arguably some of the best hockey they’ve played since the injuries to Max Domi and Brad Richardson. Going forward now, as we’ve all been saying for awhile, will be consistency. If the Coyotes had been playing a lesser team tonight, victory may have been assured.
1-0 Minnesota - After controlling the opening minutes of play, the Coyotes give up the first goal of the night to Eric Staal on the Wild’s first shot of the night. Jakob Chychrun got caught up ice leaving Kevin Connauton alone to defend a 2 on 1 chance against Staal and Nino Niederreiter. Using Niederreiter as a potential pass option and freezing Connauton, Staal took his time and placed the shot on Louis Domingue perfectly. Assists to Niederreiter and Matt Dumba at 4:39.
1-1 Tie - “What a shot.” - Tyson Nash. You know who he’s talking about. With Brendan Perlini Streaking into the offensive zone, Shane Doan makes a great pass from the neutral zone which splits two Wild defenders and finds Perlini. In one swift motion, Perlini receives the pass and then unleashes a rocket wrist shot. Assists to Doan and Michael Stone at 11:42.
2-1 Minnesota - With the Wild cycling efficiently on the Power Play and the Coyotes unable to clear the puck, the Arizona penalty kill unit got worn down to a near halt. From there, things became straightforward for Minnesota, with Mikko Koivu finding Niederreiter in a shooting lane. Niederreiter then managed to squeeze a one timer through Domingue’s five-hole. Assists to Koivu and Jason Pominville at 13:27.
3-1 Minnesota - Chris Stuart scores on a beautiful breakaway goal courtesy of an Oliver Ekman-Larsson turnover in the neutral zone. Assist to Jason Pominville at 16:31.
3-2 Minnesota - After Devan Dubnyk saved a stellar Christian Dvorak chance, Doan collects the puck from the corner and passes back to Chychrun open in the slot. There Chychrun unloads a slap-shot which Dubnyk misses, allowing the Coyotes to respond immediately. Assists to Doan and Dvorak at 16:54.
3-3 Tie - A broken play off a drop pass orchestrated by Alex Goligoski playing down low leads to Jamie McGinn slapping in a huge shot in over Dubnyk’s shoulder to reward the Coyotes for what was ultimately a Sedona Red period. Assist to Goligoski at 17:24.
4-3 Minnesota - Controlling the passing play again on their Power Play, the Wild worked the puck around the zone before feeding Niederreiter who was waiting straight in front of Domingue. Niederreiter beautifully tipped the puck into the back of the net using the momentum of the pass. Assists to Mikael Granlund and Pominville at 12:54.
- Who plays in net? - Louis Domingue got the start. He wasn’t outstanding with a .840 save % but he didn’t make any memorable mistakes either in what was a reasonably high scoring affair.
- Who plays on defense? - Connor Murphy was scratched in favor of Kevin Connauton. This change up seemed to have already failed as Kevin Connauton was on the ice for an early Wild goal but ultimately the game was lost by the penalty kill unit who allowed 2 goals, rather than the defensive play at even strength. Tyson Nash may have put the game down to “puck luck.”
- Who plays on the Power Play? - Arizona was starved of a proper Power Play opportunity until late in the 3rd period when they were trailing. Unfortunately, their effort at that moment was absmyal as they failed to record a shot with the man advantage. The combination of few Power Play chances, many penalties and a poor penalty kill game meant the game was a struggle for the Coyotes outside of even strength.
Players of the Game
Arizona - Shane Doan - The Captain finished the night with 2 assists for 2 points, and boy were both those assists beautiful. He also finished the night with 2 shots on goal and 2 hits - a sound night for the Captain in what has otherwise been a disappointing season.
Minnesota - Nino Niederreiter - Niederreiter assassinated the Coyotes, finishing the night with 2 Power Play goals (one of which being the game winning goal) and an assist for a 3 point night. He also recording 4 shots during the course of the evening.
- For more on the Minnesota Wild, check out Hockey Wilderness.
- Martin Hanzal remains a scratch after returning to Arizona to deal with a personal matter.
- Peter Holland and Connor Murphy were also scratched for the night.
- Anthony Duclair was assigned to the Tucson Roadrunners in the AHL prior to the game.
- With Duclair’s roster spot open, Ryan White was taken off injured reserve and dressed for the game against Wild. This was White’s first game since the 21st of December. He recorded 3 hits and 2 takeaways in 9:54 minutes of ice time.
- With Murphy scratched, Kevin Connauton lined up alongside Jakob Chychrun for a rare game. Connauton finished with a neutral +/- with 1 shot on goal and 2 hits in 13:12 minutes of ice time.
- Arizona’s recent perfect penalty kill streak was broken when the Wild scored a 1st period Power Play goal. The streak had lasted all of 2017 up until this point, with the Coyotes killing 19 consecutive Power Plays to start the New Year.
- Arizona were an atrocious 33% in the face-off circle against Minnesota.
Arizona will now return home to Gila River Arena. They next face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, aka “Ladies Night,” featuring a bunch of great freebies for the first 7,500 ladies in attendance. Puck drop is at 6:00pm Arizona Time.