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Arizona Coyotes’ night spoiled by Winnipeg Jets’ top forwards

Arizona Coyotes center Brad Richardson (15) and Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele (55) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Before the Arizona Coyotes’ game against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night, head coach Rick Tocchet said Friday that his team would “have their hands full” against the elite players that are scattered throughout the Jets lineup.

One of those players, a member of Winnipeg’s lethal top-six forward group, Mark Scheifele, scored his 10th goal of the season in the third period on Saturday to give the Jets their first lead of the game.

Winnipeg (9-4-3) would hold that lead, and Arizona (2-14-3) went on to lose 4-1.

“We didn’t give [their top forwards] a lot, but then, boom, Scheifele right in the slot, top shelf, in the net,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s one of the best players in the league and he puts it in the net. He doesn’t need much chances. He didn’t have much in the first couple periods but you’ve just got to give that guy one chance.”

The Jets are one of just two teams in the NHL who, entering Friday, boast three players in the top 20 in the league in goals scored (the other team is Toronto). Scheifele is one of those three for Winnipeg.

And even though Tocchet said his team wasn’t giving the Jets’ top forwards too much to work with, seven of the eight points scored by Winnipeg forwards tonight were credited to players in their top two forward lines.

Aside from Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Matt Hendricks also scored for Winnipeg, later leading to the empty-netter by Patrik Laine. This, despite the fact that the Coyotes scored the game’s first goal for the 13th time in their 19 games this year.

Arizona’s goal in the first period came as the Coyotes had been pressuring Winnipeg in the offensive zone. A few shots on net created a scramble for the Jets and their goalie, Steve Mason, who wound up down on the ground. A bounce back out to Derek Stepan was passed off to Alex Goligoski, who fired it home.

The goal was later credited to Zac Rinaldo on a tip in front.

But Hendricks’ unassisted goal in the second period made it a 1-1 tie by second intermission. In the third period, Scheifele was left open in between the circles as the Jets were humming on a power play, and he shot one past Antti Raanta to make it 2-1 at 2:31. Laine and Blake Wheeler had the assists.

“They got it wide open in the middle, got a good shot there,” Raanta said. “[I] didn’t locate the puck straightaway so it was kind of a tough play for me, but when you play 1-1 games, you need to make the saves to keep your team there.”

Exactly five and a half minutes later, Kyle Connor scored on a feed from behind the net by Scheifele. Wheeler picked up his second assist of the game on that goal.

At 8:01 in the third, it was 3-1 Jets.

Arizona pulled its goalie late, and Patrik Laine scored on the backhand from the neutral zone with 17 seconds to go. 4-1.

Raanta finished the night with 17 saves on 20 shots faced. Arizona skaters had 30 shots on goal.

LOOSE PUCKS

–Tocchet said the Coyotes lines could be shuffled around a little bit going into the team’s next game.

–In the first period, Christian Fischer was taken down hard into the boards behind the Winnipeg net. He was down for some time and eventually left the ice, holding a cloth above his left eye with blood clearly visible. He later would return. Tocchet said Fischer received stitches and was fine.

–Dakota Mermis, appearing in his sixth NHL game, played on the second pairing with Goligoski. Luke Schenn and Kevin Connauton were on the third pairing.

UP NEXT

After playing just one game in their own building since returning from a three-game road trip this week, the Coyotes will head to Manitoba to face the Jets for a second game in a row. Puck drop for that one is at 6 p.m.

From there, Arizona will play three more games on a Canadian road trip with stops in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in that order. They’ll return home after that for three games against the Sharks, Kings and Golden Knights.

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