The Arizona Coyotes played two-thirds of a good game on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights. Unfortunately, two-thirds of a good game wasn't enough and the Coyotes fell short, losing the game 4-2.
Arizona looked great for the first two periods. They not only had a 2-0 lead from a shorthanded goal from Tyler Pitlick and a power play goal from Nick Schmaltz but they were setting the pace of the game and were playing the right way.
Goaltender Robin Lehner really was a game-changer for Vegas. He kept them in the game and prevented the Coyotes from scoring on a few really good efforts. Vegas is a tough team with two elite goaltenders making them a difficult team to beat.
The turning point came late in the third second period. Max Pacioretty was able to get a lucky bounce off the boards and got the puck past Darcy Kuemper. The Coyotes finished the second period up 2-1, but things had clearly changed.
The Coyotes came out in the third period a different team. They hesitated more, the passes weren't as clean, and they let Vegas control the pace of the game. Vegas would score three times in the third, giving them the win and two points.
Vegas definitely played better in the third period of the game, but the Coyotes looked like a shadow of themselves. When they were shutting out the Golden Knights they were playing with confidence, as Tocchet said "with swagger", but they looked drained in the final period.
Tonight, and for the rest of the season, the Coyotes are going to need to find a way to be more mentally resilient. They need to play the same way whether things are going their way, or not.
And they are going to have plenty of chances to work on that. Tonight's game, like the two after it will be against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Jakob Chychrun - Chychrun has been great with the Coyotes. He has a goal and three assists in three games, and he has been more comfortable shooting the puck. With Oliver Ekman-Larsson out for a few weeks, the Coyotes are going to need the rest of their blue-line to step up.
Vegas: Reilly Smith - Smith had two goals against the Coyotes in the last game and played a solid game. The Golden Knights have a lot of offensive weapons to watch and Smith has had two 20+ goal seasons in Vegas.
Arizona: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (lower body)
Vegas: Jiri Patera
Tonight's game will be in Vegas and will air on Fox Sports Arizona Plus, SN360, and ESPN+ and the radio on Fox Sports 910 AM.