Coyotes’ homestand, win streak each end with loss to Flyers
GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you had told the Coyotes at the start of their most recent homestand that they would go 4-1-0 in the next five games, it’s fair to guess that most of them would be more-or-less pleased with that result.
It would be hard not to be. This was the same team that was 2-5-0 to start the year and got shut out three times in its first four contests. The five-game homestand, which ended Monday with a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, saw a significant turnaround for what had been a team with a losing record.
Entering Monday, it had been more than two weeks since Arizona (7-6-0) lost a game. The Coyotes were riding a five-game win streak and looking to complete a perfect 5-0-0 homestand for just the second time in franchise history.
“We wanted to work our way back in the picture and we did that,” Michael Grabner said. “We are right in the mix not but obviously still a lot of games, a lot of hockey left until the end here.”
Of course, Monday wasn’t the result the team wanted.
Arizona was down 2-0 going into first intermission before a power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk cut that deficit in half in the second period. But a Flyers goal — one in which Grabner ran into goalie Darcy Kuemper to leave the net open — made it 3-1 before second intermission. Claude Giroux would score his second of the night in the third period, and an empty netter made it five goals for Philly. Grabner also scored in the loss.
The Coyotes led shots 36-34. Kuemper made 29 saves facing Calvin Pickard, who started for Philadelphia as they deal with injuries in net.
Arizona’s two goals scored on the evening were the fewest for the team since Oct. 16 at Minnesota, when it lost 2-1. The Coyotes scored 22 goals on the five-game homestand, igniting an offense that had real trouble getting the puck in the net when the year began.
“We’re just getting the puck to the net, we’re making the simple plays, we’re not trying to force stuff,” Grabner said. “Like I said before, I think early in the season we were shooting the puck too and it wasn’t going in. Now the puck’s going in, we’re getting traffic in front of goalies and obviously that’s nice to see.”
At the same time, they played good hockey on the homestand, continued a stingy penalty kill, scored like crazy and didn’t rely on a small group of players. They spread the wealth. Their defense and goaltending were strong. The numbers were encouraging.
Not everything was perfect. But as they say: Wins are wins.
“I think it’s huge that we put five wins in a row, kind of built some momentum from that and feel good about ourselves,” captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “But at the same time, I think we still have some stuff that we can do better on the ice and going to try to build on that.”
If the five games in a row in Glendale were a test, the Coyotes passed it. The next assignment awaits: A rematch against Philadelphia, this time at their place on Thursday night. The Coyotes will then play a back-to-back on the road against Pittsburgh and Washington before finishing the four-game road trip in Detroit.
“The key now is you can’t have long losing streaks,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “You have to get back on it, come to practice tomorrow, good energy again and go into Philadelphia, and it’s going to be another tough game.”