Last night was one of the important games for the Arizona Coyotes. They have fewer than ten games remaining in the regular season, and the Blues had just overtaken them for the final playoff spot earlier in the day.
And in what may be the worst possible start to an important game, a miscommunication between Darcy Kuemper and Jason Demers led to an early goal.
The San Jose Sharks’ Noah Gregor picking up the puck behind the goal line and shoot it at an out-of-position Kuemper. The puck went in, and the Sharks had a 1-0 lead 17 seconds into the game.
It was going to be one of those nights.
The Desert Dogs seemed shaken by the early goal. The Sharks continued to control the game’s pace, and there wasn’t much the Coyotes could do.
And it wasn’t long before things went from bad to worse. Just over three minutes into the period, Brent Burns fired the puck on net from the blue line and doubled the Sharks’ lead.
Kuemper was partially screened on the play, and you can’t lay all the blame on him. But two goals in the opening four minutes of a game can’t happen.
Not long after, the Coyotes would have a golden opportunity to cut the Sharks’ lead in half when Rudolfs Balcers was called for hooking. They didn’t record a shot on goal during the resulting power play.
They wouldn’t record their first shot on goal until they were short-handed when Christian Fischer had the Coyotes’ first Grade A opportunity.
A successful kill led to the Coyotes finally getting some momentum, and played much better in the latter half of the second. Arizona was better at limiting San Jose’s time in the offensive zone, and they finally starting to generate some offense. They still weren’t able to convert, but at least things were finally starting to look up.
The first period ended with the Coyotes in a 2-0 hole, and it looked like they were going to have difficulties digging themselves out.
Despite playing better in the second half of the first, the Coyotes couldn’t carry that momentum into the second. The Sharks came out with pressure, and it wouldn’t be long until San Jose extended their lead.
Less than two minutes in, Greg Pateryn shot the puck on net from the point, and Kuemper made the easy save. But Logan Couture was waiting at the front of the net, ready to pick up the rebound and shoot it into a wide-open net, and it was 3-0 San Jose.
And just like the first period, the Coyotes didn’t have a great response. Ideally, the Coyotes would respond with a goal of their own, keeping the Sharks from extending their lead. Instead, the Coyotes gave up another one.
Less than a minute and a half after Couture scored, the Scottsdale Sharks increased their lead to 4-0 with an Erik Karlsson shot from the point. Tocchet pulled Kuemper, and it was Adin Hill’s game from this point onward.
Pulling your goalie is a good way to shake things up, and it forces the team to reset. And it worked, with the Coyotes having an actual good response to a goal.
Not long after the Karlsson goal, the Coyotes entered the zone and got set up. Jakob Chychrun brought the puck to the top of the faceoff circle and fired it on net. Michael Bunting was posted in front of Josef Korenar and deflected the puck down, where it trickled through Korenar’s legs and into the back of the net.
Pulling Kuemper and the Bunting goal would be the start of the failed Coyotes comeback. But, at the time, the Coyotes looked like they had finally come to play and take control of the game.
The Desert Dogs’ comeback would continue midway through the period. A turnover at center ice would lead to the top line entering the Shark’s zone with some speed. Nick Schmaltz had the puck and brought most of the defenders with him, leaving a streaking Clayton Keller heading towards the net.
Schmaltz executed the cross-ice pass we have seen so many times this season to a streaking Keller, who re-directed the shot into a wide-open net. Suddenly, it was a 4-2 game, with just under 30 minutes left.
Midway through the game and the Coyotes finally looked awake. The offense was finally clicking, they were better defensively, and Hill was making the necessary saves to keep it a two-goal game.
Ilya Lyubushkin would take a late penalty, with 2:10 left to go. The Coyotes would kill the penalty, but not before Jakob Chychrun blocked a shot and went down in pain. He was helped to the back when for the second intermission, and fans watching at home expected the worst.
The best thing about the game may have been that Chychrun wasn’t injured. He was out for the faceoff, and you could probably hear Arizona’s collective sigh of relief in San Jose.
Chychrun would be the Coyotes’ MVP for the third period. He started off the scoring just over two minutes into the period with a wrist shot from the top of the circle, going top shelf short side.
The goal came immediately after a faceoff win in the offensive zone, and it was suddenly a completely different game.
Sixteen seconds after the Chychrun goal, the Coyotes were given a chance to tie things up when Greg Pateryn was called for hooking, giving the Desert Dogs a power play. But that was soon negated when Oliver Ekman-Larsson losing an edge on the notoriously bad San Jose ice and tripping up Evander Kane.
The 4-on-4 hockey and brief Sharks power play didn’t see either team score. The Coyotes would get a full power play not long after, but despite coming extremely close, they couldn’t tie it up.
San Jose was able to build off the kill, and they had all the momentum immediately after. They forced the Coyotes to ice the puck multiple times, and the Yotes looked a bit rattled.
Arizona finally cleared the zone, but the Sharks kept up the pressure. Evander Kane brought the puck in, left it for Tomáš Hertl, and headed to the front of the net. Hertl passed it up to Kane, who sent it wide at point-blank range.
But Kane picked it up and sent it back to Alexander Barbanov. Hill had slid out of the net on the Kane shot, and that left Barbanov with a wide-open net, making it 5-3.
Not long after that, we saw an extremely frustrating case of poor officiating. Ekman-Larsson was in the box again, and the Coyotes were down a man.
At first, it looked simple enough, Jakob Chychrun was headed to the box for tripping Timo Meier, who had the puck. But, Logan Couture also went and was being called for interference.
The Chychrun penalty shouldn’t have happened, but not in the “you can’t take penalties late in the game when you are down” kind of way. The play should have been blown dead from the Couture penalty, and Chychrun shouldn’t have been allowed to take the penalty.
Chychrun would eventually get out of the box, and he would score the Coyotes’ last goal of the game.
It started with another faceoff win in the offensive zone, and Chychrun shot the puck from the circle. Korenar fumbled the save, and Chychrun crashed the net and backhanded the puck into the empty net. It was back to a one-goal game.
NHL Video Highlight - Jakob Chychrun scores against the San Jose Sharks to make it 5-4. pic.twitter.com/ajcpMEIIAs— Coyotes Game Bot (@CoyotesGameBot) April 27, 2021
The Coyotes would continue to push, and Chychrun came close to a hat-trick a few times.
As the minutes ticked away, the Coyotes had problems getting a clean entry and getting set up in the offensive zone, leading to Hill not getting pulled until there were 45 seconds left in regulation.
Pulling Hill earlier may have helped the Coyotes with their zone entry and getting set up, but it must have been too much of a risk. It wouldn’t matter, and with nine seconds left, Evander Kane scored in the empty net, giving the Sharks a 6-4 win.
Craig Morgan may have gotten the perfect quote from Rick Tocchet after the game.
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet cut off a question about using this rally to build on: "Don't ask me (about) moral victories. You guys saw it. Two, three gifts and then we try to make a late rally."— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) April 27, 2021
This isn’t the time to talk about moral victories from a failed comeback attempt. The Coyotes needed points and came out completely flat.
Like we have seen so many times, the Coyotes couldn’t start on time for an extremely important game. And when they needed a working power play, they came close but couldn’t score.
- Adin Hill played well and probably earned a start on Wednesday. The Coyotes also will be playing back-to-back games against the Vegas Golden Knights this Friday and Saturday.
- While the game was going on the Coyotes held a telethon that went much better than the play on the ice.
- While the Coyotes had the playoffs to motivate them, we shouldn't discount the Sharks. They had dropped their last eight games, and were also desperate for a win.
- There was an early morning scoring change to the Coyotes' final goal of the night.
The Coyotes play the Sharks again in San Jose on Wednesday at 7:30 pm.