That one stings.
Now that the Arizona Coyotes are in that fourth and final West Division playoff spot, every game is an opportunity to strengthen the post-season chances. In the case of Wednesday’s game against the Kings, it was also an opportunity to deal a crucial blow to one of the teams behind them, chasing that spot.
This gives this one a “blown-opportunity” kind of taste, especially in a game they led by two goals entering the third period.
Many components present during the three-game winning streak entering play were there - until they weren’t. Specifically, the first two periods saw strong stretches of play from most of Arizona’s defensemen. Veteran savvy showed itself at several key moments. They even got a goal from one of their defensive defensemen!
But the third period showed just enough cracks for the Kings to exploit. And those loose pucks the Coyotes were getting to, and clearing suddenly were bouncing Los Angeles’ way. Two periods of solid play undone by one sub-standard frame.
The Coyotes dictated play early, getting the game’s first four shots, with Los Angeles not recording one until 7 minutes in. It’s an encouraging development for the Coyotes, who have tended to start slow, even when they’ve been playing well.
That tends to lead to good results! The Coyotes struck first, as the big boy line of Crouse-Dvorak-Fischer all rushed to the net off a Chychrun shot. Jonathan Quick has very little response for the chaos in front. At first, it appeared to be Christian Fischer’s goal — which would have been his first of the season. It was instead credited to Lawson Crouse. Fischer at least gets an assist for his trouble, though.
C-FISCH gets the goal early! pic.twitter.com/pSDXVrGsTy— Bally Sports Arizona (@BallySportSAZ) April 8, 2021
And if the Coyotes came out strong, then the Kings certainly did their part to respond. A Chychrun hooking call would give them a power play about halfway through the period. The best Kings chance on that advantage came from Anze Kopitar, who got Adin Hill to drop his pads, and attempted a wraparound finish — but it would clear the crease.
But where Fischer’s drought continues, another one ends. Ilya Lyubushkin notches his first career goal. Lawson Crouse launches a slap shot from the left boards. It misses the net, and bounces right to the opposite board for a Lyubishkin slapper. Coyotes were now up by two.
ILYAAAAAAAAAAA! 2-0 Coyotes! pic.twitter.com/uL3cUlGOd3— Bally Sports Arizona (@BallySportSAZ) April 8, 2021
The Kings would get on the board a few minutes later. Trevor Moore sustaining some possession for the Kings below the goal line, and he throws it at the net. An awkward rebound finds the stick of Jaret Anderson-Dolan for an even more awkward bounce past Hill. 2-1 game.
The second period started mostly with the Coyotes driving play, a result of a power play carrying over to the start of the frame. Phil Kessel found Clayton Keller with a step on Drew Doughty speeding toward the net, but Doughty did his part to diffuse the play. A few moments later, the Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown line for the Kings put forth a decent minute of possession. But it also involved some sound defensive play for the Coyotes, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson playing a strong shift in particular.
Then, the Coyotes started generating some offense due to a strong forecheck. Keller and Larsson combined to force a turnover off Trevor Moore, leading to a zone entry with numbers. Some finding-the-open-man passing found Jakob Chychrun all alone at the point, a dangerous thought with how he’s been playing lately. He slaps it toward the net, and Larsson with a deflection in front beats Quick five-hole. 3-1 Coyotes.
But, as has been the game so far, Los Angeles would effort a response. But Adin Hill would o his part, making an excellent save about 7 minutes in. Iafallo firing a shot on Hill that he couldn’t quite wrestle, and Kopitar was alone below the crease, but Hill with his pads did enough to keep it out of the net.
If denying power plays were an option, the Coyotes may consider it. The Kings bring it within one after they over-extend near the end of the man advantage. A well-executed three-on-two drill gets the better of Hill off the stick of Adrian Kempe. It goes down as an even-strength goal, however.
The Kings would ride the goal to some sustained pressure, with several prime chances in the minutes following the goal. And that tends to lead to bad things. A great possession from the Kings, with good movement and finding rebounds. And the Coyotes finally break, with Jeff Carter redirecting a Doughty blast to tie the game at three goals apiece.
The Coyotes appeared to have come close to the go-ahead with about 7 minutes left. Christian Dvorak led a rush after a Drew Doughty turnover. He elects to shoot, and Fischer is there to clean up the wreckage. But Quick covers it up, refs with a quick whistle.
The Kings then get their go-ahead. It’s the Coyotes who turn it over this time, and Drew Doughty with tons of space, tons of traffic, and tons of deflections beats Hill. Carl Grundstrom gets credit for the 4-3 goal.
Down one, the Coyotes would throw everything they had, pulling Adin Hill under the 1:30 mark. But to no avail. Preventing the empty netter is little solace for this blown opportunity.
- Standings watch! Coyotes maintain a 3 point lead over St. Louis for the final playoff spot. The Blues do have a game in hand, after defeating the Golden Knights 3-1 today. San Jose (38 points, 38 games played) and Los Angeles (36 points in 38 games played) are still creeping.
- Ilya Lyubushkin’s first career goal is a belated birthday goal. He turned 27 yesterday.
- Phil Kessel moves up the iron-man rankings, tying Steve Larmer with his 884th consecutive game, fifth largest in NHL history.
- Speaking of records, a bizarre one tied by Michael Bunting tonight to start his career:
Bunting will tie the NHL record tonight and (presumably) break it Friday in Vegas. H/T @JeSanders11, who was quick to inquire with the league. #Yotes https://t.co/T6Yvm17PYy pic.twitter.com/q49bHz4KNl— Alex Kinkopf (@AEKinkopf) April 7, 2021
- The Coyotes are 18-3-2 this year when scoring three or more goals (per Alex Kinkopf)
- Drew Doughty (LAK) - 2 assists, on the game-tying and game-winning goals.
- Lawson Crouse (ARI) - Goal, assist
- Anze Kopitar (LAK) - No points, but consistently generated some of LA’s strongest chances all three periods. 24:17 of ice time on 26 shifts, and a strong 16-7 in the faceoff dot.
It’s off to Sin City on Friday, April 9, for the first of two contests against the Vegas Golden Knights. Puck drop set for 7:00 p.m. Arizona time.