As some may recall, the last time these two teams faced off the result was very different. The Coyotes returned from L.A. embarrassed after a 6-0 defeat at Staples Center early in February. It seemed to be that game in particular that kicked started Arizona’s performance over the last few weeks with many of the players referencing it specifically.
Arizona went into the game with several of its key pieces missing. Head Coach Rick Tocchet was granted a leave of absence due to a family illness and it has not been stated when he will return. Goalie Antti Raanta is still out with a lower-body injury. Darcy Kuemper was expected to start in goal but was not at the morning skate, and he was said to be “under the weather” and was the backup goalie last night.
This left 21-year-old Adin Hill to make his fourth NHL appearance in goal for the Coyotes. Jack Campbell of the Kings appeared in his second NHL appearance with L.A. Both goalies made their very first OT and SO attempts last night.
Assistant Coach John MacLean was left in charge of the bench and felt confident in the team and said that they simply needed to keep performing at the same level they have been for the past few weeks.
And their effort, in fact, did remain solid, for almost the entire first and second period, the Coyotes were outplaying the Kings. Clayton Keller scored his 19th goal of the season at 14:52 in the first period after a pass from Derek Stepan and aiming through the five-hole of Campbell.
Keller seems to be excelling under the leadership of his first line with Stepan and Panik. While Keller leads the team with 50 points, Stepan leads the team in assists (32).
It was then Nick Cousins who notched his 10th goal of the season after a wrap around behind the net and shooting. The puck then deflected off of the skate of a Kings’ defender Drew Doughty and slipped under Campbell making it 2-0 Coyotes.
It was halfway through the second period and Arizona was keeping their momentum up. Max Domi found himself in front of the net with a defender on him. He backhanded the puck to Christian Dvorak who perfectly aimed a slap shot and scored at 9:47.
Quickly after that though Tanner Pearson scored at 9:20 in the second the Coyotes started to lose their grip a little. And that remained so, and Jeff Carter scored two goals in the third to tie the game. Both goals were deflections from shots taken by Doughty. The latter with only 2:23 left in regulation.
Overtime started and the drama began almost immediately. Carter carried the puck to the net, Richard Panik in a last-second attempt tripped him. Doughty and Ekman-Larsson were both crashing the net as well. Immediately the refs called Panik for tripping but the puck crossed like goal line before the net was taken off its hinges. It was then up to the refs to decide the fate of the game as to whether Doughty’s crash was goaltender interference. The call worked out in Arizona’s favor and the penalty was called…no goal.
After that debacle, overtime ended quickly and the game went to a shootout, the first for both goalies. Adin Hill saved all but one of the shots, the one being against Adrian Kempe. The shootout went to five rounds as Keller was the only one to score for the Coyotes among Cousins, Panik and Dvorak. It was the unexpected virtue of Alex Goligoski as he scored in round 5. Hill then stopped Tyler Toffoli’s shot and the Coyotes won.
Though the Coyotes could have kept the game from going into overtime at all, many players agreed it was a great team effort showing tenacity and perseverance. There were no surprises for the three stars on the night which included Adin Hill (3), Clayton Keller (2), and Alex Goligoski (1).
There has still been no mention of when Tocchet will return, but a goalie update is sure to come tomorrow as the Coyotes host the Predators at 7:00 PM.