The Arizona Coyotes played, maybe, half a good game last night. They had an awful start that ultimately doomed any chance of winning, but they showed a lot of dedication to mount a comeback and come as close as they did to tie it back up.
Arizona not being ready to start a game is nothing new. We have seen it a few times this season, and we have seen it in previous seasons.
And when the Coyotes are off like that, they are just bad. They blow their defensive zone assignments, the passes don’t connect, they can’t exit the zone, and they get completely dominated by the other team. It’s death by a thousand cuts, but on ice and with hitting.
That is what happened during last night’s first period. It started with a power play goal from Jonathan Marchessault; and continued with William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, and Reilly Smith, all scoring in the next 5 minutes and 41 seconds.
Suddenly, the Vegas Golden Knights were up 4-0, and they were outshooting the Coyotes 21-3. Adin Hill was getting no support, and it seemed like it was going to be one of those nights.
Hill was back in net for the second period and was clearly frustrated with the lack of support in front of him. The game had been comically lopsided, one of those games where you know that everyone could be doing better.
And the second period didn’t start much better, with Chandler Stephenson getting his eighth of the season just over four minutes in. The Coyotes now had dug themselves a deep hole, especially for a team that has problems scoring.
Arizona’s offense finally started kicking in very late in the second.
The Coyotes were on the power play, and there was less than a minute left in the second. Arizona was deep in the Vegas’ zone, and Nick Schmaltz wristed a shot through traffic and into the back of the net.
If that goal had done nothing else but kept Robin Lehner from recording a shutout, it would have been enough for a moral win. But with 21 minutes left in the game, the Coyotes had finally started playing.
Ivan Prosvetov was in net for the Coyotes for the third period. He hasn’t gotten much ice time, and with the Coyotes set to play a back-to-back this Sunday and Monday, the team likely wanted to give him some ice time.
Whatever the reason, it worked. The Coyotes continued with the momentum of the final minute of the second, with Dryden Hunt and Clayton Keller scoring in the first four minutes of the period.
It wasn’t much, but being down by two in the final period is a lot better than being down by four.
Reilly Smith would extend the Vegas lead halfway through the third with his ninth goal of the season. But the Coyotes, who had allowed Vegas to score five unanswered goals, actually had a good response, with Michael Bunting getting his 5th of the season just 15 seconds later.
Cue the Coyotes comeback?— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 10, 2021
Michael Bunting scores his 5️⃣th goal in six games! pic.twitter.com/ycgULfCKul
Unfortunately, the Coyotes were unable to complete the comeback. Vegas kept them from getting the final two goals, and Max Pacioretty would score the into the empty net with just under a minute left.
It was the type of loss that raises far more questions than answers. Why wasn’t the team ready to play at the start of the game? Is it a motivation problem, or is the team not physically and mentally ready to play? Could things have gone differently if the team was rallying behind Prosvetov at the start of the second rather than in the third?
What can be done to keep this from happening again?
- Tyler Pitlick returned from injury, and played 12:59 seconds. He didn't look great, like the rest of the team, but didn't look in over his head.
- Last night was Reverse Retro night for Vegas, and there jerseys seemed to look orange on TV rather than the red you see in pictures.
- Arizona had two power play opportunities, Reilly Smith scored short-handed on the first one and Nick Schmaltz scored on the second one.
- Phil Kessel finished the night with three primary assists. Like everyone else he seemed to come alive in the third period.
- After being outshot 22-8 in the first period, Arizona would outshoot Vegas 11-10 in the second and 7-5 in the third.
- Michael Bunting scored his fifth NHL goal in only his sixth game, getting a hat-trick definitely helps. Schamltz got his 10th, becoming the sixth Coyotes' player to hit double-digits in goals scored.
- With three assists Phil Kessel now leads the team with 32 points.
- Adin Hill started in his ninth straight game. He didn't look rusty, and it would be hard to blame him for the prime chances the Coyotes were allowing. But that's just way too many starts, especially with the Coyotes' other two goaltenders being down with injuries.
- The decision to start Prosvetov for the third period is weird. If the team thought the game was over and thought he needed some easy ice time that definitely backfired with the team beginning to mount a comeback. They may have wanted to shakeup the team, but that probably should have happened earlier. Or, maybe after getting next to no support Hill had just had enough.
- With the trade deadline fast approaching, I'm sure the possibility of being traded was on everyone's mind last night. Honestly, after the way that game ended I'm not sure blowing up the roster was completely necessary. The players mounting a comeback showed a lot of heart, and plenty of skill, but they clearly were not prepared to start this game.
- William Carrier delivered a rough hit on Christian Fischer into a dangerous part of the glass. He did not return to the game.
The Coyotes next play the Golden Knights on Sunday, at 1:00 pm Arizona time.