The Arizona Coyotes arrived at Gila River Arena on Thursday in desperate need of a good performance.
Losing two games in a row is never ideal. It’s even worse when both losses are shutouts. The Coyotes could take solace in knowing they had only conceded a total of two goals over their last two losses.
At the end of the day, however, failing to score in one game—let alone in back-to-back contests—is just that: failure.
The Coyotes were vastly outgunned in their 1-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday. Darcy Kuemper’s 26-save performance kept his team in the game while the skaters on his side only mustered 16 shots, including just five in the third period. That’s not good enough.
On Tuesday, the Coyotes deserved a better fate. They outshot the Anaheim Ducks 31-24 and beat them in the expected goals department at even strength by a count of 2.26 to 1.61. But Danton Heinen’s goal midway through the first period proved to be the difference as the Coyotes failed to solve Ducks goaltender John Gibson.
Rick Tocchet’s team had two main aims entering Thursday’s action: to win, obviously, but also to finally score again. However, before the Coyotes could strike, the Ducks were again up by that dreaded 1-0 score.
All it took was one mistake. Jordan Gross attempted a breakout pass to Nick Schmaltz in the Coyotes’ own slot, but Schmaltz mishandled the puck and it landed on the stick of the Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg. Anaheim’s star winger slapped it past Kuemper to open the scoring just 3:16 into the game.
Later in the first, the Coyotes got a grade-A opportunity to finally crack Gibson. Christian Dvorak set up Clayton Keller by the left circle and the Coyotes’ winger took a hard wrist shot that had a real chance to beat the Ducks’ goalie; however, Gibson lunged across his crease and barely kept the puck out with his blocker.
After setting up Keller’s near-miss, Dvorak finally got the Coyotes on the board at the 7:43 mark of the second period. It came off a classic bank shot from behind the net, with Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk being used as the figurative backboard. Dvorak’s second goal of the year was ugly, but it counted.
Speaking of own goals: Jani Hakanpaa got in on the action for the Ducks just 52 seconds into the third period, deflecting a cross-ice pass from Conor Garland up and over Gibson to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead. Again—ugly; they don’t ask how; they all count; et cetera.
Just before the halfway mark of the third period, the Ducks tied the game once more. With Tyler Pitlick, one of the Coyotes’ better penalty killers, in the sin bin, Heinen fired home a rebound that Kuemper would probably like to have back.
The home team quickly struck back. With Silfverberg in the box for the Ducks, the Coyotes executed a familiar man-advantage set play to perfection. Nick Schmaltz, manning the left flank, fired an accurate pass down low to Phil Kessel. From Gibson’s right, Kessel sent a one-touch pass into the slot towards Dvorak, who one-timed his second of the game into the net.
The prettiest goal of the game also remained as the winner for the Coyotes. With the 3-2 victory, Arizona climbed out of last place in the West. Their 3-4-1 record gives them seven points in eight games and slots them in seventh in the division.
How we're looking tonight. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/eFJ6HKRL0h— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) January 29, 2021
- Christian Dvorak is off to an excellent start this season and now sits in a tie with Conor Garland for the team scoring lead. Both players have three goals and four assists in eight games.
- The Coyotes barely surrendered any offense at even strength on Thursday. According to Natural Stat Trick, they generated 2.83 expected goals’ worth of chances at 5v5, compared to just 0.52 for the Ducks.
- The Ducks managed zero high-danger scoring chances at even strength on Thursday. Arizona had 11.
- Darcy Kuemper faced just one shot in the second period. Ryan Getzlaf took the shot; Kuemper made the save.
- Before Dvorak opened the scoring, Phil Kessel had an opportunity in the first period where he received a pass at the left circle and fired the puck through the crease instead of into the wide-open net. Kessel remains in the team lead with four goals on the season.
- Jordan Oesterle (22:13) played the most minutes for the Coyotes on Thursday, bolstered by 5:04 of power play time. Shattenkirk played 21:45 for Anaheim but scored his only goal of the game for the other team.
- Goalie penalty alert: John Gibson and Conor Garland took offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct minors near the end of the third period.
- Christian Dvorak — two goals on two shots, 77.8 xGF%
- Clayton Keller — one assist on two shots, 97.5 xGF%
- Conor Garland — one goal on five shots, 74.5 xGF%
The Coyotes will travel to Missouri for a Groundhog Day game against the St. Louis Blues. Puck-drop on Feb. 2 will be at 6:00 PM on Fox Sports Network–Arizona and Fox Sports 910 AM.