The Arizona Coyotes are looking to get some points on this road trip after falling 3-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Tonight they’ll be going up against the Minnesota Wild in their home arena. It has been a rough season in the desert with team earning a record of 12-32-9 for 33 points in 53 games played. For comparison last season the historically bad Colorado Avalanche were 15-36-2 for 32 points in 53 games played. So at the very least optimists can point out that the Coyotes have been much closer to winning more games because of their OT losses.
In other news the defender Jason Demers is likely to be returning to the lineup tonight. Demers has been sidelined since suffering an upper body injury in the January 25 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. This may be just a coincidence, but that is also the last time the Coyotes looked like they could be turning the corner with their play, instead of running in to the corner.
Meanwhile in Minnesota the Wild are hanging on to the second Western Conference wild card spot in the playoffs by a thread. They are tied with the 3rd team in the Pacific the Los Angeles Kings with 63 points. Right behind them are the Avalanche, Clagary Flames, and the Anaheim Ducks each with 62 points. They need a win tonight to get some distance from those teams and stay in the playoff hunt. Especially if they intend on making any trade deadline moves.
In fact they made a minor league move today adding Viktor Loov to their defensive depth. This may be necessary as defender Jonas Brodin went down in their last game against the St. Louis Blues. He won’t be available for tonight’s game.
Game Wrap Up
There were heroes and villains across the board for the Arizona Coyotes in their 4-3 overtime victory in Minnesota and without already knowing about the game you’d be surprised at which Coyotes were playing what role.
In the villain category we have Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who until overtime was carrying a +/- of -2 and appeared on pace for less than 20 minutes of ice time which is low by his usual standard. Joining him in the naughty corner, was Antti Raanta. Raanta was unfortunately hung-out-to-dry by his defenders on the first two Wild goals, but the third and potentially soul crushing goal was solely on him. Thankfully both these players went on to at least partially redeem themselves as OEL earned an apple on the game-tying-goal while Raanta was solid after giving up Minnesota’s third goal of the night.
With the Coyotes down 3-0 at the midway point of the match and unable to score despite their best efforts, it appeared as if this was another game heading from bad to worse. However, Finishing the second period strongly with a Nick Cousins goal, Arizona received a much needed jump-start. With that goal the momentum completely swung the way of the Desert Dogs and the visitors looked like the superior team. Though it was easy to doubt their ability to complete a comeback from 3-0 down, it suddenly felt within reach.
Having one of his best games in a long time, Kevin Connauton scored before the half way mark of the third period, adding a goal to the assist he earned on Cousins’ earlier goal. Now only a goal down, the Coyotes pushed even harder. With Raanta pulled for an extra attacker in the final moments of regulation, Cousins game through clutch, scoring with 18.9 seconds left in regulation.
Here's a look at Cousins' late game-tying-goal pic.twitter.com/6ASWfmCTAj— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) February 9, 2018
Now bound for overtime, Arizona lost the opening draw and endured nearly two and a half minutes of Wild 3v3 chances before getting a turn to end the match. When the Coyotes finally got possession of the puck, they never let it go, patiently cycling in and out of their offensive zone and drawing back into the neutral when required.
Enter Kevin Connauton.
With just over a minute left in the extra-period, Connauton dishes the puck off Derek Stepan to and heads toward the net to make a screen on the ever reliable Devan Dubnyk (36 saves). Now with the puck on the wing, Stepan feeds Keller in the slot where he picks the top right corner and snipes in his first goal since NYE.
Derek Stepan and Alex Goligoski each quietly finished with a two assist night while Connauton earned his three points with his goal and two assists.
Keller's first goal since NYE. Guess who earned an assist on the play? K. Connauton for a 3 point night, WOW. pic.twitter.com/87HqEfQuzU— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) February 9, 2018
The Coyotes now return home to face the team they won their first game of the season against, the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop at Gila River Arena is 6:00pm MT this Saturday and the game can also be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona or tuned into on ESPN 620 AM.