Rangers’ Lundqvist keeps Coyotes from win they deserved
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Tocchet called Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers at Gila River Arena a maturity test.
The Coyotes had just rallied to defeat the Nashville Predators on Thursday. The last time they did that against an elite team at home, the Washington Capitals on Dec. 22, they turned around and laid an egg against the Colorado Avalanche in a 6-2 loss.
Tocchet wanted to see the Coyotes build off Thursday’s win before they headed into a five-day break.
“I want to see us come out and play a solid game,” he said.
Tocchet didn’t get the two points he wanted in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers, but he got the effort he wanted.
“I asked them to be professional and I asked them to be mature and I thought they did, for the most part,” Tocchet said. “We were in position to win.”
The Coyotes didn’t win because Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist brought his A-game. Lundqvist stopped 38 shots to move past Tony Esposito for eighth place on the NHL wins list with 424. He outdueled Antti Raanta, who played well in his first game against the Rangers since they traded him to Arizona on June 23, but couldn’t stop Mika Zibanejad, who had the lone goal in the shootout.
“Every time you play against your former team you kind of have a little bit extra,” said Raanta, who had 24 saves. “Hank was so good at the other end that you’re kind of telling yourself that you need to stop this next puck also.”
Anthony Duclair gave the Coyotes 1-0 lead on a power play at 10:50 of the first period when he beat Lundqvist inside the near post from the bottom of the left face-off circle on a rebound.
The Coyotes could have had so much more. Lundqvist made a post-to-post stop on Tobias Rieder 57 seconds into the game, a glove save on Christian Dvorak at 6:27 of the first period, a glove save on Duclair at 10:05 of the second period and a diving stop on Brad Richardson at 7:29 of the third period.
The first period may have been Arizona’s best of the season.
“We found a way to be ready to play the game,” forward Derek Stepan said. “It’s a big thing going forward to continue to do it.”
Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey tied the game 1-1 at 5:11 of the second period when he stripped the puck from Oliver Ekman-Larsson along the right boards and cut to the net before lifting a high shot over Raanta.
Arizona had a power play for the final 1:29 of overtime but Lundqvist stopped all three shots.
“Their goalie was the difference tonight,” Tocchet said.
Arizona heads into the mandated five-day break with a 3-3-1 record in its past seven games after a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1). It’s not the end point they would like to reach, and it’s not a guarantee there will be no more backward steps, but it’s a small-sample sign of progress.
“I actually like the way we played the last month, take a few games here and there away,” Tocchet said. “We’re starting to get a little better in certain aspects.
“We need some veteran guys to step up their game. We start doing that and [Raanta] is starting to play well for us, we can make a good second half here.”