Despite an awful first period and a final score of 1 to 4, there was a lot of hope behind the Coyotes as they rose to one of the toughest challenges in the league before falling away and into defeat at the last breath.
Arizona managed a measly 3 shots on goal in the first period which played out largely how one might have expected to between these two teams. But across the first two periods of play Mike Smith did what Mike Smith does best, saving 25 of 26 shots faced in 40 minutes to keep the scoreline to only 1-0 in favor of the Capitals.
Taking advantage of Smith’s stellar play, the Coyotes actually built momentum as the game wore on, finishing the 2nd period with a flurry of shots and starting the 3rd where the left off. Eventually the Capitals broke and the Coyotes found a way forward through a Peter Holland goal courtesy of Anthony Duclair’s lightning speed.
Unfortunately, this served as a wake up call for Washington who then remembered they are Presidents’ Trophy candidates and playing a young Arizona side. Promptly the Capitals responded, scoring 2 goals in quick succession and putting the Coyotes back in their place.
1-0 Washington - On the power play Alexander Ovechkin set up shop in the left face-off circle a.k.a the “Ovechkin Spot.” He waited there briefly before being fed a lovely pass by Niklas Backstrom from behind the net before ripping in a hot wrist shot to best Mike Smith on his glove side. Assists to Backstrom and Marcus Johansson at 8:31.
No scoring during the second period as the Coyotes finally got a respectable number of shots on the board but were still out shot by the Capitals 14 to 11. Arizona finished the period with some great forechecking in their offensive zone which created a number of chances as Alex Goligoski drew a penalty. The Coyotes’ couldn’t capitalize in the dying moments of the second period with the man advantage but would start the third period with 41 seconds of power play time remaining.
1-1 Tie - Anthony Duclair bursts through the neutral zone past the Capitals’ defenders and creating a breakaway opportunity for himself. Going wide, Brayden Holtby saves the Duke’s initial move but the rebound falls back out in front of the net where Peter Holland pushes it home before Holtby can move back into position. Assist to Duclair at 12:29.
2-1 Washington - Penalty kill specialist and former Coyote Daniel Winnik streaks into Arizona’s defensive zone after a Coyotes’ power play expires and scores with a high wrist shot past Mike Smith. Assists to Dmitry Orlov and Kevin Shattenkirk at 15:21.
3-1 Washington - Less than a minute later the Coyotes get caught up ice trying to generate scoring but the Capitals take the puck away for a 3 on 1 against Connor Murphy. Murphy does his best to delay Washington while reinforcements arrive. They do arrive, but Arizona is sprawling all over their own zone in complete chaos chasing and failing to clear the puck. Eventually Justin Williams says enough is enough and unloads a big slap shot from the right face-off circle which goes in and bounces back out off the back post. Assist to Kevin Shattenkirk at 15:53.
4-1 Washington - Jamie McGinn and Daniel Winnik battle hard in the Coyotes’ defensive zone for a loose puck heading toward Arizona’s empty net. McGinn does everything he can but Winnik finds a way to knock the puck in just before it heads into the crease behind the net.
- Can the Coyotes contain Alex Ovechkin? - Ovi opened the scoring with his 30th goal of the season. He was scary as always but Arizona managed him alright for the night and never let him completely off the leash.
- Will puck luck benefit the Coyotes? - Puck luck neither benefited or took away from either team tonight, with the game won on the back of hard work, hunger and skill. The Capitals simply showed why they’re heading to the playoffs, getting the job done on a night where they weren’t at their best.
- Will Arizona’s youngsters outrun the Caps? - Arizona got more and more into the match as the game wore on, and part of that could be the young legs of the Coyotes. Unfortunately speed and energy isn’t everything and Arizona still have a lot to learn in terms of skill and tactics.
Players of the Game
Arizona - Mike Smith - Smith’s final stats for the night aren’t impressive (29 saves on 32 shots for a mediocre .906 save percentage) but for the first half of the game when Arizona’s forwards weren’t doing much, Smith locked down his position and gave the Coyotes every chance to get themselves back in the game - and they nearly did.
Washington - Brayden Holtby - Finished with an excellent .966 save percentage, saving 28 of 29 shots he faced as his night went from incredibly quiet to incredibly busy. It’s never easy on a goalie to have to play only 3 shots in one period and get cold before having to wake back up and face 26 across the following two periods. Helped quell the the Coyote uprising.
- For more on the Florida Panthers, check out Jasper’s Rink.
- Healthy scratches for the night were Anthony DeAngelo and Teemu Pulkkinen, while Shane Doan, Alexander Burmistrov and Kevin Connauton all remain out injured.
- Zbynek Michalek suited up for his second Coyotes’ game since being recalled. He replaced Anthony DeAngelo on the third defensive pairing with Jakob Chychrun. Z finished on +1 for the night with 1 shot on goal, 2 hits and 2 blocks.
- The Coyotes and Capitals will meet again this season, playing on Friday the 31st of March in Arizona at Gila River Arena.
- Alexander Ovechkin’s goal in the first period was his 30th for the season, making him just the third player in NHL history to score 30+ goals in each of their first 12 NHL seasons.
Arizona now turn their attention to the St. Louis Blues with whom they will play a home and home series against over the next two games. The first game is in St. Louis on Monday night, with puck drop at 5:00 PM Arizona time. The game can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona or tuned into on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.