In an amazing reversal of fortune, the Arizona Coyotes scored two early first period goals, one by Conor Garland at 1:13 into the contest and the other by Clayton Keller at 7:07 on their first two shots of the game. The Yotes were able to take advantage of a shaky Ryan Miller, who gave up a boatload of goals against the Avalanche on Tuesday night, but could not get a third goal past him for the remainder of the night.
Both teams had plenty of motivation to win Game 1, as the Ducks were buried by the Avalanche on Tuesday and the Minnesota boys were going wild over the discombobulated Coyotes. Each team had lost 4 games in a row prior to Thursday’s tilt and were anxious to erase that embarrassing fact posthaste.
It’s not often that the Coyotes score goals, particularly in the first period, and definitely not a pair of them so early in a game. Perhaps the team didn’t know how to play with a lead (or just forgot since it’s happened so infrequently), but it didn’t take long for a familiar problem to rear its ugly head once again: Inconsistent play.
Early on the Yotes were pressing the issue and were getting out of their own end cleanly, resulting in space to work with in their “O” zone. Inexplicably, it didn’t take long for the tide to turn, and those unpredictable Desert Dogs found themselves backing off their opponents at a time when they should have continued putting pressure on the Ducks and unstable Ryan Miller.
The Coyotes had difficulty winning faceoffs, nothing new in itself, but those critical faceoff wins helped the Ducks alleviate some of the pressure the Yotes were imposing on the home town boys early in the period.
The Ducks stepped up the pace in the second period, and the Coyotes played more tentatively than they did late in the first period. The ultimate result was predictable – the Ducks scored their first goal on a great effort by Jamie Drysdale at 12:01 of the second. This is when the Yotes’ team confidence and collective psyche seemed to become very fragile, and you could almost feel the momentum turning Anaheim’s way.
The Ducks, now riding the wave of energy created by their first tally, were more aggressive in picking up most of the loose pucks. At 14:30 of the second, Trevor Zegras scored his first NHL goal, and the Ducks’ tying goal.
The third period ended without any goals being scored by either team, forcing OT. Coyotes’ forward Tyler Pitlick was penalized for interference with 26 seconds remaining, however, and the Ducks were still on the power play at the beginning of extra time. It only took 13 seconds for Adam Henrique to score the winner on the short side by rifling a shot over the left shoulder of a stunned Adin Hill.
So what can one say about the Coyotes’ performance other than to admit that the same problems that have haunted them all year long contributed to last night’s loss? Sure they got a point, but they still suffered from inconsistent play, a lack of “on target” shots, woefully few faceoff wins, and undisciplined penalties.
If you believe that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then strap yourself in for the long haul. In the meantime, let’s see if the Coyotes can make enough adjustments by Saturday night to surprise us in some positive way. Let’s go Coyotes!