Coyotes enter holiday break on low note with loss to the Avalanche

Dec 23, 2017, 10:17 PM | Updated: Dec 24, 2017, 12:38 pm
Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg (34) scores a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Scott We...
Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg (34) scores a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood (31) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Avalanche won 6-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There will be no happy holiday for the Arizona Coyotes.

Any hope of carrying over Friday’s come-from-behind win over the Washington Capitals was washed away in a 3:46 span of the second period on Saturday in a 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Carl Soderberg, J.T. Compher, Nail Yakupov and Matt Nieto scored for the Avalanche (17-15-3) shortly after a pair of fights that ended with a match penalty for Coyotes forward Zac Rinaldo, and game misconducts for Coyotes forward Josh Archibald and Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon at 8:52 of the second period.

The fights began when Rinaldo delivered a hard and clean open-ice hit on Avalanche star Nate MacKinnon. Colorado’s Samuel Girard came to MacKinnon’s defense with a possible cross-check and Rinaldo punched him in the face, setting off a pair of fights and leading to an automatic suspension for Rinaldo, courtesy of the match penalty.

Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, who was involved in one of those fights, said the melee energized Colorado.

“[Girard] is not going over there to try and fight him. He’s just going over there to give him a bump and he suckered him. I’m sure that’s something the league will look at,” Johnson said. “Any time your best players stick up for one another, I think it goes a long way in the locker room. We stepped up as a group after that.”

The Coyotes entered the game with the best penalty-killing unit in the NHL since Oct. 31 (89.55 percent; 60-for-67 in 24 games), but Colorado scored three times on the power play to drop the Coyotes to 2-9-2 in their past 13 games.

Arizona didn’t get much help from goaltender Antti Raanta, who allowed three goals on 19 shots, including a goal by Nail Yakupov from the goal line that banked off Raanta’s pads to make to 3-0 at 13:26 of the second period.

Raanta was pulled and replaced by Scott Wedgewood.

“Its not easy to win in this league by any means,” said center Derek Stepan, who became the first Coyotes to score two shorthanded goals in a game since Tobias Rieder did it Dec. 1, 2014 against Edmonton. “When you’re in a back-to-back situation, you have to be at your sharpest. I thought we were sharp through a period and a half and then the wheels came off.”

The NHL begins a three-day holiday break on Sunday. The Coyotes return with another back-to-back set, beginning with a rematch against Colorado on Wednesday in Denver.

“We’re not happy with that game so it will be nice to hopefully get one back on them,” defenseman Jakob Chychrun said.

Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said his team has plenty to think about over the break.

“We’ve got to reboot,” Tocchet said. “You can go two ways as an individual. You can just feel sorry for yourself in the next 40 and just have a worse year than you have or you can bounce back.

“That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for some guys to bounce back; have some pride.”

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