Hill gets first NHL win, Coyotes beat Kings to stave off playoff elimination
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes entered Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena, facing the possibility of becoming the first team mathematically eliminated from the NHL playoff race, per NHL public relations.
Elimination day may come soon on this five-game homestand, but Arizona wasn’t going to let its own actions dictate that outcome.
Adin Hill made 34 saves for his first NHL victory and Alex Goligoski scored in the fifth round of a shootout to help the Coyotes overcome a blown three-goal lead in a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena on Tuesday.
Clayton Keller, Nick Cousins and Christian Dvorak scored for the Coyotes, who are 5-1-1 in their past seven games, 11-3-2 in their past 16 games.
“There was really not a lot going on in that game,” Coyotes assistant John MacLean joked of his interim head-coaching gig in place of Rick Tocchet, who took a leave of absence due to a family illness. “I don’t know if anything really flipped the script. I thought we played really well. I thought guys were jumping. We were putting the puck deep.
“L.A. is a pretty good hockey club and they’re fighting for their lives there. They made a couple plays.”
Hill’s start was unexpected. Darcy Kuemper was supposed to start his fifth straight game in place of injured Antti Raanta, but he felt ill during the day and even worse at game time so Hill was pressed into action with Kuemper serving a tenuous backup role and emergency goalie Nate Schoenfeld waiting in the wings.
“I had a bit of an idea that there was a chance all day,” said Hill, 21, who became the first goalie to record a win for both the AHL Tucson Roadrunners and the Coyotes, and the second youngest to earn a win in franchise history. “When I was on my way to the rink, Corey Schwab, the goalie coach, texted me when I was about five minutes away.
“It’s exhilarating [getting my first win]. It’s something you dream of every day growing up as a child. To come here and do it is great. Now I want more.”
In keeping with a recent trend, the Coyotes kept the pressure off their goalie early.
Keller gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead at 5:08 of the first period. Richard Panik dove to keep a puck in the zone and Derek Stepan batted down another clearing attempt with his stick before finding Keller all alone at the right post.
Keller beat Jack Campbell between the pads for his 19th goal of the season and 50th point. Keller is the third rookie in Coyotes history to reach 50 points (Peter Mueller, 54, Max Domi, 52). He is tied with Trevor Letowski for the third-most goals by a rookie (Peter Mueller leads with 22).
Nick Cousins made it 2-0 at 15:43 when he centered a pass to Max Domi in the slot that deflected off Drew Doughty’s skate and past Campbell. With the goal, Cousins tied a career-high for points with 16.
Hill kept the two-goal lead safe heading to the second period when he stopped Dustin Brown with a left pad save with two seconds left in the first.
Christian Dvorak made it 3-0 at 10:13 of the second period when Jake Muzzin couldn’t clear a puck along the boards. Cousins stole it, fed Domi in the slot and Domi’s backhand pass found Dvorak skating up the right wing. Dvorak beat Campbell to the glove side.
Tanner Pearson cut the lead to 3-1 27 seconds later when he scored from the right face-off circle.
Jeff Carter made it 3-2 on a power play at 12:03 of the third period when Doughty’s shot from the point deflected off his body. He tied it 3-3 on another deflection of Doughty’s shot from the point at 17:42 of the third period.
In the shootout, Goligoski said he went to school off Keller’s shootout goal when deciding what to do.
“I’ve never tried it in a shootout before,” Goligoski said. “Copy Keller.”
MacLean said the decision to go to Goligoski came from goalie coach Corey Schwab, who was on the bench in Tocchet’s absence. Schwab kept suggesting defensemen.
“When you go three, four, five it’s a little bit of a crapshoot,” MacLean said. “He goes, ‘Goose, he just had a baby, so maybe he can.’ I’m like, ‘OK, we’ll go with him then.'”