Arizona Coyotes get first home win of season to start ‘big’ homestand
GLENDALE, Ariz. — One down, four to go.
The Arizona Coyotes beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday night in the first of five games on a homestand that head coach Rick Tocchet called a “big” one earlier in the day. He said it would serve as a barometer for how his team would play with urgency in its own building.
“There was urgency,” Tocchet said after the game. “Vancouver’s leading the division, they were 6-4, we’re 3-5, have a chance to get close to .500, we have a five-game homestand. This a must-win? In our eyes, it was a game that we needed.”
The win also marked several firsts on the season: Arizona’s first home win, their first goal in their own building, their first back-to-back wins, the first goal by a Coyotes defenseman and Alex Galchenyuk’s first point in a Coyotes uniform.
The goal by a blueliner was that of Alex Goligoski, who made it 1-0 Coyotes at Gila River Arena for the first time in 2018-19.
“We’ve kind of felt [urgency] for the last few games here,” Goligoski said. “We dug ourselves out of that hole, 1-4 [record] or whatever it was. You can’t get behind early in the season. We know that all too well. So it was good to get this one tonight, I don’t think we played our best, but sometimes a tough game coming off a road trip like that, we got the win and we can regroup.
“We’ve got four more at home. We can start a run a little bit here.”
Arizona will host a loaded Tampa Bay Lightning team next, which boasts the highest point percentage in the NHL and also happens to be the only club with a higher PK percentage (97) than the Coyotes (91.3).
On that note, the Coyotes held the Canucks scoreless on their three power plays on Thursday, but scored two shorthanded goals (Brad Richardson, Lawson Crouse). They now have a plus-one goal differential on penalty kills this season. That stingy defense will need to continue.
“[Thursday’s win] was really important,” Clayton Keller said. “Coming off a road trip, you want to have a good start, and I think we were okay. We got better as the game went on. I think it definitely wasn’t pretty but we got the job done and that’s what matters most.”
Arizona outshot Vancouver 30-28.
KUEMPER IN GOAL
Darcy Kuemper was the goaltender for Arizona on Thursday night as Antti Raanta was still recovering from illness. Raanta had been expected to start on Tuesday in Columbus, but was pulled for Kuemper at the last minute.
Kuemper has therefore now been in goal for two consecutive games, and won both of them. He stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced on Thursday.
“Kuemps all year has been seeing the puck,” Tocchet said. “He looks big in the net to me. He had a good camp. Could have won that Minnesota game, I thought that was a good game in Minnesota. And he got the short notice two hours before the game in Columbus, and then he comes in tonight and, you know, same thing. That’s a pretty good duo, goaltending duo right now, we have.”
This time, Kuemper got more advanced notice.
“I found out [I was starting] when we landed yesterday, so a little bit more time to prepare,” Kuemper said with a smile.
KELLER’S EVENTFUL EVENING
While Goligoski opened the scoring to make it 1-0 at 0:43 in the second, Vancouver quickly answered back to make it 1-1 on a goal from Darren Archibald. The go-ahead goal for Arizona came at even-strength from Keller at 3:55 in the third period, his fourth tally of the season. It was assisted by Galchenyuk, who forced a turnover to get the puck to Keller and mark the center’s first assist — and point — since joining the Coyotes.
Galchenyuk first made his debut with Arizona in Columbus on Tuesday.
But before all of that, in the second period, Keller was skating up the ice when Vancouver’s Antoine Roussel grabbed him by the face and neck area and pulled him down to the ice. Roussel was met immediately by Crouse, and a melee ensued. Crouse and Roussel each were given 10 minute misconducts, with Roussel getting an extra two minutes for roughing.
“It means to everything to me. It shows what kind of guys they are and sticking up for me,” Keller said.
Tocchet said he thought Keller’s game improved as the game went on.
“I’ll honest with you, Clayton Keller, the first two periods, I didn’t think he was good,” Tocchet said. “He dug in, scores a big goal for us and he actually played good in the third. That’s what you need in this league. Even the great teams, they have an off night, and somehow they dig in to win and that was tonight for us in the third period.”
At 12:16 in the third, Richardson scored on the penalty kill to mark his second short-handed goal of the season. And at the 18:00 mark, with Canucks goalie Anders Nilsson pulled for a 6-on-4 power play, Crouse scored the shorthanded empty-netter from his own zone to make it 4-1.