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Seeking ‘fresh start,’ Coyotes begin new year, second half with OT win

Arizona Coyotes left wing Anthony Duclair (10) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period during an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes played in the 42nd game of an 82-game slate on Thursday, starting the second half of a woeful season against a team that was in the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

But in the first game of the calendar year and of the second half, the Coyotes battled back in the third period and scored in overtime to down the Nashville Predators, 3-2.

It was a much-needed victory for a team that’s said to be looking for a fresh start.

“Nashville, they’re a good team. I think they’re going to be in the finals and they have a great team and I thought we held our own there,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We didn’t crumble. Guys stuck with it.”

Ironically, one of the better players in the win — and the player who was awarded a wrestling belt that’s passed around the locker room — was the same player who was making headlines coming into the game: Anthony Duclair. “Duke,” as he’s called, scored the game’s opening goal and nearly had another one.

Tocchet specifically named Duclair as a player who he thought had a great game.

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, who had the big belt from the last game, couldn’t give the belt to himself, even though he said postgame that some of his teammates told him he should keep it. The netminder made 37 stops and helped keep Arizona in the game.

“It’s a great way to kick it off,” Raanta said of the win in the new year. “How we lost lots of games in the last five, 10 minutes and today we came back [in] the last two minutes.”

That they did.

The first period yielded no goals for either team, though the Predators outshot the ‘Yotes 17-6 in the frame. Arizona killed off its only penalty.

There was, however, this play by Jakob Chychrun in the game’s first stanza:

In the second, the Coyotes opened the scoring when Duclair prevented a breakout effort by the Predators. He skated across Juuse Saros’ crease and wrapped the puck around the netminder’s right pad for the 1-0 lead at 12:41.

Before the middle period’s end, the Coyotes may have experienced some deja vu.

It was on Dec. 19 against the Florida Panthers that Derek Stepan was taking a faceoff in Arizona’s defensive zone. Florida won the faceoff and immediately scored, cutting the Panthers’ deficit in half with 10 seconds to go in the period.

Nearly the exact same thing happened on Thursday, this time a game-tying goal by Ryan Ellis with 8.7 seconds remaining.

One intermission and 17 seconds of play later, Nashville scored again. They led 2-1 on an unassisted goal from Craig Smith.

But with 2:49 to go in the third period, the Coyotes were on the power play when Nick Cousins (who was surprised at his own power play opportunity) scored the game-tying goal.

That forced overtime.

And for good measure, even by the time Christian Fischer scored a game-winning rebound goal on Saros from a shot by Chychrun, the Coyotes had to wait: There were not one but two reviews on the play.

A review for a dislodged net and one for goaltender interference couldn’t overturn the goal, and the Coyotes had won it.

A fresh start? So far, so good.

“It’s been a rough first half for the majority of guys in here. We’re not too happy about it,” Cousins said. “It’s a fresh start here in 2018, and obviously to kick it off against a good Nashville team puts things in the right direction.”

LOOSE PUCKS

–Thursday’s game marked the first of the mathematical second half of the Coyotes’ schedule, at it was Arizona’s 42nd game of the season.

–The Coyotes claimed Freddie Hamilton off waivers from the Calgary Flames on Thursday. Hamilton, 26, will join the team on Friday, and Mario Kempe was reassigned to the AHL in a corresponding roster move. Hamilton, Zac Rinaldo and Kyle Capobianco were the scratches for the Coyotes against the Preds.

–From 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Craig Morgan: Anthony Duclair’s time with Coyotes likely nearing an end 

UP NEXT

The Coyotes will play the New York Rangers on Saturday, the former club for Raanta, Derek Stepan and Duclair.

Tocchet said that game, which is the last before a five-day bye-week, will be a big test.

“This is a maturity thing for me right now, to see where our team is on Saturday night,” he said. “I want to see us come out and play a solid game.”

Fischer also said Saturday would be a big matchup.

“Hopefully we get a good win going to bye week, not having to think about hockey,” Fischer said. “You don’t want to go into that week thinking what I could have done on that Saturday game, ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts,’ stuff like that. Saturday’s going to be a big game for us.”

From there, the Coyotes won’t play again until they host the Oilers next Friday.

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