Arizona Coyotes drop season finale to playoff-bound Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes (29-41-12) played the 82nd and final game of their 2017-18 season on Saturday, falling 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks and their goaltender, Ryan Miller.
Though both the first and the last games of the Coyotes’ season yielded losses to the Ducks, the Coyotes finished their year having gone 20-14-7 in 41 games since the start of the new year, a big turnaround for a team that lost its first 11 to begin the season.
Saturday’s loss was in front of a sellout crowd of 17,382 on Fan Appreciation Night.
“We wanted to get a win in front of our fans and that didn’t happen,” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “Obviously the Ducks have a good team, they have some real good players up front. It wasn’t the game we were looking for but at the same time, I’m proud of the guys. It’s not easy to play in these games that we don’t really have anything standing-wise to play for. I thought that we’ve been doing a really good job the last two, three months.”
Miller made 31 stops for his third career shutout against the Coyotes, a team against which his career save percentage is better than it is against any other opponent he’s faced in his 15-year career, not counting the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
It was the first time the Coyotes were shut out at home this year.
It started with a first-period goal at 10:54 on the power play. A shot by Rickard Rakell was stopped by Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta, but it bounced back to Adam Henrique, who put it home for the game’s first tally to make it 1-0. Corey Perry was later given the primary assist.
Perry later found himself on top of Max Domi’s stick on the ice, and Domi still had the top of the stick in his hand. The two didn’t separate for several moments, and eventually, Domi got his stick free as Perry’s helmet came off. A flurry of Coyotes offense soon followed near where Perry and Domi had been tied up when suddenly, Perry and Brad Richardson dropped the gloves.
Each got five minutes for fighting, and Perry got an additional two-minute minor for clipping. The Yotes didn’t capitalize on the power play, a unit that went 0-for-4.
Before second intermission, Anaheim doubled its lead thanks to a goal by Rakell, his second point of the night. He scored on Raanta thanks to a feed from Getzlaf, making it 2-0 Ducks.
An empty-netter in the third by Hampus Lindholm sealed Arizona’s fate.
Derek Stepan praised both goaltenders.
“That’s a team that their foundation is structurally being really sound, defensively. And they don’t give you a whole lot, and when they do, Ryan Miller’s there to stop,” Stepan said. “Ideally, you want your power play to find the back of the net. I thought our first one maybe wasn’t as sharp but I thought we were better as the few went on and we just weren’t able to get it in the back of the net.”
Raanta made 24 saves, finishing the season with a .930 save percentage. Unofficially, he finishes with the second-best save percentage in the NHL.
No other NHL goalie has a better save percentage in as many or more games than Raanta (47).
Head coach Rick Tocchet seemed pleased with his team’s improvement as the season went on, noting that there’s still plenty of improvement to be made.
“For me, it’s just the process, getting better,” Tocchet said. “I thought we got better from October, so there’s good, positive things. We have a lot of work to do. Everybody’s got to get better, which is good. Any organization has to say that. We have to get better, but we knew there was positive sides since October, for sure.”
Ekman-Larsson echoed similar sentiment.
“If you put aside those 20 first games, I thought we had a really good year,” Ekman-Larsson said. “We built on some stuff that we need to keep doing and I think that’s going to help us going into next season.”
–The Coyotes planned to donate a portion of the proceeds from their in-game 50-50 raffle to the Humboldt Broncos, a Canadian junior team that was struck by tragedy on Friday night when its bus was involved in a crash. The accident left at least 15 dead. There was also a moment of silence prior to the game to honor the victims.
–Florida Panthers forward Radim Vrbata, who played 509 of his 1,057 career NHL games in a Coyotes uniform, played his final game on Saturday after announcing that this season would be his last. Vrbata played three separate stints for Phoenix/Arizona (2007-08, 2009-14, 2016-17) and scored 157 goals and 186 points for the ‘Yotes. He was the team’s leading goal-scorer three different times, two of which were seasons in which the Coyotes reached the playoffs.
The Coyotes’ season is over, but the NHL playoffs begin on Wednesday. The Coyotes’ Pacific Division foes in Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and Vegas have all clinched playoff spots. The Western Conference’s Nashville Predators finish the season with the league-leading point total with 117 points, while the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 113 points paces the Eastern Conference.