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‘Consistency’ stands as key word after Coyotes fall to Isles

New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) battles with Arizona Coyotes right wing Josh Archibald (45) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes’ season in 2018-19 could be characterized by peaks and valleys.

They were shut out three times in their first four games. Arizona won their fifth in a row on Nov. 2. The Coyotes were outscored 11-2 in two games after Thanksgiving, then won four in a row.

And since that streak, the Coyotes have lost six of their last seven games, most recently a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders at home after going 1-3-0 on a four-game East Coast road trip. In this particular game, consistency wasn’t only an issue on a game-to-game basis but on a period-to-period basis.

Head coach Rick Tocchet was asked what he thought of his team’s energy during Tuesday’s game.

“Which part of the game?” he replied.

Perhaps that’s the best way to characterize how it went for Arizona against the Isles.

“The first period we were good. We had three chances,” Tocchet continued. “In the second period, we gave three egregious mistakes, a couple veteran players. And then in the third I thought we made a push again. So, that was kind of the story of the game.”

Arizona scored first — Mario Kempe’s first of the season on a pull-up off the rush from the right circle — but went into first intermission tied 1-1. Josh Ho-Sang, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier all scored for the Islanders (the latter two in the second period) to take a 3-1 lead that would stand after six minutes of play.

Arizona led shots on goal 37-32 as Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves. Robin Lehner tended net for New York in place of former Coyote Thomas Greiss, who played last night at Colorado.

The Coyotes dropped to 14-17-2 on the season and remain in second-to-last place in the Pacific Division.

“Just execution. The goals they got was just execution,” Tocchet said. “A couple bad passes. In this league, you have to execute. You have to be able to make an 18-foot pass and we didn’t and it’s in our net. We had some chances and we’re not scoring right now, so everything’s magnified when you don’t score.

“You’re looking for leadership in those situations. Not just older guys but younger guys. You’ve got to be able to make a play under pressure.”

In some instances, Arizona struggled to get the puck out of their own end, and on one occasion was attempting to do so but committed a turnover that resulted in an Islanders goal.

That happened in the second period, a period that Tocchet said contained “egregious mistakes” (see above).

“I feel like that’s been a little common theme for us unfortunately the last games here when we play pretty well for a long time during the game and then we have 10 minutes that’s not good at all,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said.  “That’s when the opponents usually find a way to score some goals. Same story today again.

“We just have to find consistency in our game and just kind of realize that we’re playing about huge points here. We know where we are in the standings and we got some catching up to do.”

Up next are the Montreal Canadiens, who like the Islanders will visit the Coyotes after playing the previous night in Denver. The Coyotes are currently 13 points behind third place in the division and will look to change that on Thursday.

LOOSE PUCKS

–The Coyotes sent forward Michael Bunting down to Tucson on Monday. Tocchet said at practice that forwards Christian Dvorak and Vinnie Hinostroza both skated but weren’t yet ready to return to action.

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