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Until next time: Coyotes get a point in last home game for awhile

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) makes a save on a shot by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) as Coyotes right wing Richard Panik, left, defends during overtime of an NHL hockey game Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Penguins won 3-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes got a point against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, forcing overtime but ultimately falling 3-2 in what will be their last home game this month.

Feb. 7 marks the next time the Coyotes will play a game in their own building, as they’ll go on the road for three games, sit for the All-Star break and a “bye week” and then play three more games on the road. It’s hard to say whether the odd quirk in the schedule comes at a good time — the Coyotes have 10 points in their last seven games.

“Right now, the points are so important, we’re not really worried where the game is,” goaltender Darcy Kuemper said. “Obviously, when we were at home we wanted to make a stand and get as many points as we could. We got three of the four [possible points] here, so that was pretty good. Now we’ve just got to take it on the road.”

Kuemper, who started both games on the short homestand that ended Friday, made 32 saves in the Coyotes’ loss. Arizona was outshot 35-33.

“I think we scratched and clawed,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I liked our first [period], I liked our third. They’ve got star players over there. We had a chance to win it in overtime. … I liked our effort.”

The deciding goal in the game came when Richard Panik was called for hooking in overtime and the Penguins got a 4-on-3 power play. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang were on the ice as Kessel got the game-winner.

“They’re dangerous,” Stepan said. “You’ve got to make sure you protect as much as you can, and at the same time, the way they score their goals is really simple: it’s just a shot to the net with a tip.”

But that the Coyotes got to overtime at all was thanks in large part to Derek Stepan’s game-tying goal in the third period with 5:26 remaining. Arizona was down 2-1 after they thought they had tied it up already, but the first would-be goal was disallowed because of goaltender interference.

Replays showed that while Ekman-Larsson was skating across the front of the net, his foot hit goaltender Matt Murray’s left foot, causing him to fall to the ice. While Murray was down, the puck went into the net.

Here’s what the NHL wrote about the Pittsburgh’s successful coach’s challenge:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referee, the Situation Room determined that the actions of Ekman-Larsson impaired Murray’s ability to defend his goal. According to Rule 78.7, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a “GOAL” call on the ice is that the NHL Situation Room (which shall include a former referee in the Officiating Department in the decision-making process), after reviewing any and all available replays and consulting with the Referee who made the original call, determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to “Interference on the Goalkeeper,” as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4.”

Therefore, the original call is overturned – no goal Arizona Coyotes.

“I didn’t like it. Toronto [where reviews are conducted], it’s tough. These guys got to make a lot of calls there,” Tocchet said. “I don’t want to analyze it too much, but I guess they guessed that he dragged his foot, but [Ekman-Larsson is] trying to stay on his feet. So, it is what it is.”

Not only did Stepan get the goal back by scoring later in the third period, but Clayton Keller scored earlier in the game, which gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead in the first period.

The goal was Keller’s 100th career point, making him the fastest player in team history to reach that mark, taking him only 132 games (Max Domi was the previous record-holder at 154 games).

“It’s a cool accomplishment,” Keller said. “But, more importantly, I’m focused on our team and we’re playing good hockey right now. So, just one step at a time, keep moving forward and the rest will take care of itself.”

While not a win, the Coyotes got a big point in the standings; As they near the All-Star break, Arizona is just four points out of a playoff spot after Vancouver’s win on Friday.

“It was a big point,” Stepan said of the loss to Pittsburgh. “Obviously where we’re at in the standings, every single night, points are crucial. So, to find a way to get one is a real solid effort. […] Good point, hard-fought point and we move on to the next one.”

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