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Same mistakes, same result for winless Coyotes in loss to Rangers

Arizona Coyotes goalie Adin Hill, above left, Adam Clendening, below left, and Alex Goligoski reacts as New York Rangers right wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK — A critical turnover in the neutral zone. A soft goal allowed. An opponent’s goal scored 46 seconds after an Arizona goal. Glaring defensive breakdowns and missed opportunities at the offensive end.

No need to read the Coyotes’ game-to-game directions. You know them by heart. Lose. Rinse. Repeat.

The New York Rangers scored a pair of first-period goals off a Derek Stepan turnover and an Adin Hill whiff of the glove, and the Rangers answered Anthony Duclair’s early second-period goal when Michael Grabner found himself alone in front of the net on an inexcusable defensive mistake by Jason Demers. Grabner’s goal was the 10th time this season the Coyotes had allowed an opponent to score within two minutes of scoring themselves.

The result: a 5-2 Rangers win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday that dropped the Coyotes to 0-9-1. That is the second longest losing streak to start a season in NHL history; one game shy of the 1943-44 Rangers’ NHL record of 11.

Forget all those emotions that Stepan was experiencing early in the game when Rangers fans gave him a standing ovation and he saluted the crowd by waving his stick and thumping his heart. The emotions the former Ranger was feeling after the game were more potent as he sat in his locker with a look of dejection, poring over the stat sheet.

“We have to learn,” Stepan said. “Every time you step on the ice, you have to learn from it. When we watch our film and when we go into our practice, we have to learn from it. It’s really all we can do right now is continue to get better and continue to learn.”

When asked Wednesday if any changes were coming to the coaching staff or roster on the heels of this start, general manager John Chayka said the Coyotes would be “staying the course. Hoping to get healthy sooner than later.”

Arizona is already paying former coach Dave Tippett’s buyout. To fire coach Rick Tocchet would be both financially imprudent and a misplacement of blame.

Tocchet did not turn the puck over in the neutral zone on the first goal. Stepan did. Tocchet didn’t miss a harmless shot from the left wall. Hill did. Tocchet didn’t abandon the front of the net to chase a man who was already being defended. Demers did. Those are not mistakes that need to be coached. Every NHL player should know what to do in those situations.

“You can’t give freebies,” said Tocchet, who was asked specifically about Grabner’s goal that gave New York a 3-1 lead. “One of the veteran guys on defense, I don’t know where he was going. You guys saw it. It’s a sloppy goal all around.”

There are actually positive signs for the Coyotes in Duclair’s good early start (three goals) and the continued elite play of forward Clayton Keller, who scored his seventh goal of the season on a third-period power play and has seven points in his last four games to lead all rookies in goals and points (11).

But those rays of hope are being entirely overshadowed by this historically dark start, the worst in franchise history.

If changes are coming for the Coyotes, they may have to come in the form of lineup changes or message sending. There aren’t a lot of options, but at this point what does it matter? It literally can’t get worse. The Coyotes have lost every game this season. Every other NHL team but Montreal has won at least three times.

“There’s always a time and a place for that,” Tocchet said. “Sometimes guys need a pat. My thing is just make sure that certain guys recognize that they’re making a mistake. That’s the big thing for me. If they’re recognizing it, we’ll help it. If they don’t think it’s their fault then we’ve got troubles.

“But like I said, I’m proud of the way the guys have been battling with the situation we’ve been put in so far.”

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