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Coyotes turn tentative, blow three-goal lead in loss to Ducks

Arizona Coyotes left wing Brendan Perlini, left, watches a shot against Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet wanted to get off to a fast start this season to instill confidence in his young team and buy-in to his new system while avoiding falling in an early hole in the NHL standings.

In the same breath, he admitted it would be tough with so many new faces and so much youth learning a new system.

It felt as if both scripts played out on Thursday at the Honda Center in Arizona’s season opener.

The Coyotes pushed the pace early thanks to a veteran blue line and youthful speed. They got goals from four members of their young core to storm to a three-goal lead late in the second period.

Youthful mistakes and inexperience helped Anaheim storm back for a 5-4 win, capped by late third-period goals from Andrew Cogliano and Rickard Rakell, the latter of which glanced off goaltender Louis Domingue’s arm and in with 3:30 left in regulation.

“Four to one and we started to back off,” Tocchet said. “It’s hard to win in this league. You’ve got to be able to play hard and I thought we started to back up; certain individuals were backing up.

“We were playing north which we want to do and all of the sudden we started taking the puck back. That’s a learning lesson. It’s a tough one because it’s a game we should have had.”

The Ducks won despite the absence of five key pieces of their lineup who were missing due to injuries, including captain and top center Ryan Getzlaf (lower body), second-line center Ryan Kesler (hip surgery, injured reserve), top-four defensemen Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, who both had offseason surgery to repair torn labrums and are on IR, and forward Patrick Eaves (lower body, IR). Backup goalie Ryan Miller (upper body) is also on IR.

The five skaters missing from the Ducks lineup on Thursday accounted for 79 goals and 227 points last season.

“I think we just lost focus a little bit and it spiraled out of control a little bit,” defenseman Alex Goligoksi said. “Good teams don’t do that.”

Anthony Duclair got things rolling for the Coyotes on a goal off a nifty give-and-go with Goligoski (three assists) 4:44 into the first period. Clayton Keller scored his first career NHL goal less than two minutes later and Max Domi and Christian Fischer added power-play goals as Arizona grabbed a 4-1 lead at 13:50 of the second period.

Domingue got the start in Arizona’s goal in place of Antti Raanta, who is still nursing a lower-body injury but had been cleared to play.

“Real close,” Tocchet said when asked how close Raanta was to playing. “We wanted him to get a couple good practices in.”

Domingue made 36 saves, but he got into a skirmish with Anaheim agitator Corey Perry late in the second period behind the net after Perry delivered a shoulder to Domingue’s head.

“I’m playing the puck and I get a hit to the head,” Domingue said. “I’ll get frustrated if I don’t do anything. They’re going to keep running at me. I don’t know why he got so mad. He hit me in the head. You can’t do that.”

Fischer scored on the ensuing power play off a deflection of Brendan Perlini’s shot, but the Ducks clawed within 4-3 after two periods on goals 31 seconds apart by Perry and Ondrej Kase.

“I don’t think it’s on one guy. It’s on all of us,” Domingue said. “We shouldn’t let that whole situation take away a 4-1 lead. We let it slip.”

For Duclair, his goal was a welcome relief after last season’s five-goal struggle. Duclair didn’t score his first goal until Nov. 3 last season. His second came on Dec. 27. He has seven goals and nine points in nine career games against the Ducks.

Keller, who is seemingly on every publication’s list of candidates for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, got his first NHL goal after he corralled a loose puck off a Ducks skate and slipped it in the far side of the net.

“It’s cool but it would have been nicer to get the win,” he said.

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