The Arizona Coyotes came into today’s match-up against the Minnesota Wild looking to break a four-game losing streak. Antti Raanta was given the call to lace up his skates and play in net for the first time since March 22nd. The Yotes were 0-3 in Minnesota entering the game, being outscored 11-1 in the previous meetings hosted at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN this season.
The pace of play was a drastic improvement for the Arizona Coyotes early against the Minnesota Wild in today’s early outing. This improvement was apparent during the 8:43 seconds of play without a whistle after the first minute passed in the period.
Passing was an issue early for Arizona as multiple turnovers in the offensive zone took away chances for early goals. The first half of the period allowed for few shots, and what shots were taken from both sides were rarely from positions that provided real scoring opportunities.
The Coyotes have improved over the last few games in physical play, and today’s game was no different. The Desert Dogs were intent on blocking shots and winning possession of the puck along the boards from the opening face-off. This physical play was an integral part of maintaining a fantastic pace of play throughout the entirety of the period.
This pace was halted with 5:00 left to go in the first when Arizona’s defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for a tripping penalty behind the Coyotes net. Minnesota ranks 27th in the NHL in power play percentage, a large disadvantage on paper, when compared to the Coyotes’ 10th ranked penalty kill.
The Wild maintained possession of the puck for the majority of their first power play, eventually leading to a Mats Zuccarello goal in the final minute of the man advantage. The puck entered the net in a tight window due to an unfortunate bounce off Coyotes’ net-minder Anti Raanta’s ribs with 3:29 remaining in the period, giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
Little action was present in the game until Wild right wing Kevin Fiala was called for a holding minor with 0:45 remaining. Minnesota’s penalty kill is among the best in the league, ranking 5th in the NHL. No goal was scored by the end of the period, and the Coyotes entered the first intermission down 1-0.
Mats Zuccarello gets Minnesota on the board. pic.twitter.com/5O4ufI3Xq6— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) April 14, 2021
1st Period Stats:
Shots on Goal (SOG): ARI-9 MIN-7
Hits: ARI-9 MIN-12
Face-Off Wins: ARI-8 MIN-4
The Arizona power play immediately continued in the 2nd period of play with no luck until Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin was called for a delay of game minor penalty, providing a one-second 5-on-3 advantage for Arizona.
Despite not capitalizing on their first power play opportunity of the night, Arizona was able to find the back of the net on a wrist shot destined for the top right corner from defenseman Jakob Chychrun. The goal was scored with 0:59 to go in the second half of back-to-back Coyotes power plays, tying the game at 1-1.
Play remained silent following the game-tying goal, except for a shot attempt by Christian Fischer that deflected off the post and out of play. The silence was broken when the Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise took advantage of a rebound following a shot from his teammate Nick Bonino, giving the Wild a 2-1 advantage midway through the second period.
The Arizona Coyotes have struggled playing from behind this season, and today’s game was no different. Following the Parise goal, Minnesota owned the game both in the pace of play and quality of possession for the majority of time remaining in the period.
With 2:12 remaining in the first period, Coyotes’ Tyler Pitlick was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for tripping Minnesota’s Nick Bonino. A minute and a half later, Bonino found the back of the net for the Wild’s second straight power play goal and extended the Wild lead to 3-1 with less than a minute remaining in the second period.
With little time remaining, the score remained unchanged for the final 0:46 of the second period, with the Coyotes down 3-1 heading into the break.
2nd Period Stats:
SOG: ARI-22 MIN-16
Hits: ARI-13 MIN-16
Face-Off Wins: ARI-13 MIN-17
Arizona had an early opportunity in the final period of play to close the gap when Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno was called for high sticking less than a minute into play. Despite multiple scoring chances, the Arizona power play was unable to capitalize on the man advantage.
Within seconds of failing to score on the power play, Arizona found themselves in more penalty trouble when Jakob Chychrun was called for holding. April has been a great month for Minnesota on the Power Play, as the Wild lead the league in Power Play goals since April 1st. This stat will continue to stand after Mats Zuccarello found the net for the second time this afternoon thanks to an assist by Marcus Johansson
The Wild had blown the game open and had a 4-1 with 15:30 remaining in the game.
Minnesota took advantage of all three power play opportunities, but they were far from finished. Just 1:20 after scoring their fourth, Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon scored on an in-close opportunity, and the Wild lead grew to 5-1.
Arizona’s lone highlight of the period came from a Phil Kessel goal with 11:24 remaining in the period that lessened the lead to 5-2. This goal marked Kessel’s team-leading 16th goal of the season, with the goal was assisted by Dryden Hunt and Johan Larsson.
Phil Kessel found himself with room in front of Cam Talbot and easily put home Hunt’s pass up.
Some nice puck movement & our guy Phil Kessel gets his 16th goal of the season!!! pic.twitter.com/m2PGx2TCuh— Bally Sports Arizona (@BallySportSAZ) April 14, 2021
Aside from a two-minute interference penalty on Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno that saw Arizona fail to score, the remainder of the period was relatively uneventful. The game ended with the Coyotes losing by a final score of 5-2, the Yotes’ fifth straight loss since beating the Los Angeles Kings on April 5th.
SOG: ARI-30 MIN-22
Hits: ARI-16 MIN-17
Face-Off Wins: ARI-20 MIN-27
- The Arizona Coyotes’ hot and cold 1st period starts have been detrimental to the success of the franchise. Just a week and a half ago, fans were excited about holding the 4th place spot in the West Division and the final spot in the playoffs. After today, the Coyotes are now one point out of playoff contention and have played three more games than the St. Louis Blues, who currently hold the last playoff spot in the division. First-period consistency will have to improve in the final stretch of the season for the Desert Dogs to have any hope of seeing the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
- The next three games for Arizona are vitally important for multiple reasons, the biggest reason being playoff contention. Winning the next three games at home against two of the division’s top three teams would boost the team’s standings and morale.
- If it feels like it has been forever since the Desert Dogs have played a game at home, that’s because it has been, as they ended a nine-game road trip this afternoon. Maybe a little home cooking both on and off the ice is just what Arizona needs heading into the final stretch of the season.
- Today’s game marked the return of goaltender Antti Raanta, who missed the previous 11 games with an injury. He had a bit of rust.
- The game was originally scheduled for the afternoon, but was rescheduled to comply with a curfew following the shooting of Daunte Wright. Before the game the Wild held a moment of silence for Wright.
- Shot quantity has not been equal to shot quality in recent games, but the offensive play seems to be improving still late into the season. The young core of the team is still finding ways to supply points and the future is starting to look brighter, even if that future doesn’t include a spot in the playoffs. Now is the time for the young guns to start firing and give the fans an idea of what to look forward to as expectations start to shift towards future success.
The Arizona Coyotes will play the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, April 17th at 6:00 PM Arizona time. This will be the Coyotes first home game since their 9 game road trip began on March 31st.