Turnovers prove costly as Coyotes fall to Jets
Following what was arguably their best effort of the season on Tuesday night, the Arizona Coyotes were looking to build momentum when they returned home on Thursday.
Things didn’t quite work out that way though.
Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 23 Arizona shots and Nikolaj Ehlers netted the game-winner with 3:14 left in the third period as the Winnipeg Jets handed the Coyotes a 3-2 defeat. Radim Vrbata and Tobias Rieder picked up the goals for the Desert Dogs.
Arizona came out strong in the first, muzzling a Winnipeg attack that just lit the lamp eight times on Tuesday and features the league’s top goal-scorer in rookie Patrik Laine — as well as the top overall point producer in Mark Scheifele. The Coyotes surrendered just three shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, but one shot by Andrew Copp found its way past Louis Domingue to give the Jets a lead just 4:50 in.
Vrbata responded less than five minutes later, stepping into a feed from Jordan Martinook to even the score. Much like it did on Tuesday, the line of Vrbata, Martinook and Jamie McGinn led the way for Arizona.
“They’re good, honest players,” Tippett said of the trio. “Their chances come through the work that they put in.”
The difference on Tuesday, however, was that the Coyotes were attacking the Colorado Avalanche in waves. Vrbata’s line may have led the way, but the other three lines were close behind. Thursday’s game saw a drop-off in chances from the other forwards as the evening wore on.
“Our execution from the start of the second period on was not what it needs to be to give you a chance to win,” Tippett pointed out afterward.
As it turns out, the Coyotes did still have a chance to win, despite their struggles. Blake Wheeler scored midway through the second to give Winnipeg a 2-1 lead, but it was just a one-goal game with under four minutes remaining in the third.
Unfortunately for Arizona, the Coyotes spent much of the third period chasing this one, and it showed. While they outshot the Jets 19-12 through the first 40 minutes, they were outshot by a margin of 15-6 in the third period. And that was just the shots on goal. As far as overall shot attempts, Tippett’s group carried a 37-26 advantage into the third, only to see that swing in Winnipeg’s favor by a total of 31-11 in the final 20 minutes.
That caught up with Arizona as an uncharacteristic turnover by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson led to the goal by Ehlers with 3:14 to go.
“I was trying to be smart but I wasn’t,” the 25-year-old Ekman-Larsson said. “It hit a stick; a bad break. It cost us the game. That’s the way it goes.”
It certainly wasn’t the only turnover of the game, it’s just the one that will show up on the highlights because the Jets were able to convert. Rieder muscled a goal in with a little over a second remaining, but there wasn’t enough time to try to tie it at that point.
With the loss, the Coyotes drop to 5-8 on the year. This is just their second defeat at Gila River Arena so far, bringing them to 3-2 on home ice in the 2016-17 campaign. They’ll get a shot to bounce back when they welcome the Boston Bruins to town on Saturday night.
-The Coyotes have converted on just one of their last 18 power plays. They were 0-for-1 in that department Thursday.
-Vrbata is now two points shy of 300 as a Coyote. Overall, he now has 564 in his career.
-Eight of Arizona’s 13 games have been decided by one goal, with a ninth only showing a two-goal margin because of a late empty-netter.
-The Coyotes are 4-3 over their last seven games.
-Saturday’s matchup with Boston will mark the first time Arizona has faced the Bruins since Oct. 27, 2015.