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Arizona Coyotes win third straight with goal drought in rearview mirror

Arizona Coyotes' Vinnie Hinostroza (13) celebrates with teammate Jordan Oesterle (82) after scoring a second-period goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — One year ago Sunday, the Coyotes lost their 11th straight game to start the season.

On Saturday, after starting the season 1-4-0, the Coyotes beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 7-1 as Arizona won its third straight game and evened its record to 5-5-0.

“I don’t know if [the Lightning] had any actual scoring chances, like really tough ones,” goaltender Antti Raanta said. “They didn’t get any odd man rushes or anything else. [My teammates] made it pretty easy for me.”

Tampa Bay didn’t fare well in helping its own case, was playing the second game of a back-to-back and played without forward Ondrej Palat, defending Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman and 2018 Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Still, Arizona managed to flatten a team that entered the evening with the highest point percentage in the NHL.

“Confident,” Tocchet said when asked how his team feels. “I don’t want us to be overconfident, I mean we’re .500. We’re 5-5, we climbed back in it, we’ve won two games at home. What, four of the last five after we had a tough start. I like that we’re digging deep. …

“Hey, we’re not ordering any rings around here. When we weren’t winning, we weren’t a bad team either. So I’m just, ‘Hey, good win.’ We’ll have a day off tomorrow and we’ll come back at it Monday.”

It wasn’t long ago that Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet was fielding questions about why his team couldn’t score goals. They were shut out three times in their first four games and didn’t score until their third game of the season.

Now, the Coyotes have scored 22 goals over their last five games.

“[Brendan] Perlini, on that [first] goal, he was in front of the net,” Tocchet said Saturday. “We need guys — we weren’t doing that at the beginning of the year, quite frankly. It’s hard to score in this league. I’m sure there’s some guys with some ice packs on their legs and their arms because they went to the net. Well, that’s what you have to do every night if you want to score.”

Ironically, Arizona outshot its opponents in each of its first five games and didn’t get outshot by an opponent until the Coyotes’ offense finally came alive for four goals at the United Center in Chicago.

“I think it’s puck luck,” defenseman Alex Goligoski, who had two assists Saturday, said. “We’re getting the same chances we were getting before. We’re scoring on some of them now. We’re getting some shorthanded goals. I don’t know — the numbers aren’t always right, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you hit a hot goalie.”

The goals were abundant on Saturday.

Tampa Bay goaltender Louis Domingue — formerly of the Coyotes — started in net against Arizona’s Raanta. Domingue surrendered a goal each to defenseman Jordan Oesterle (his first of the season), Clayton Keller (his fifth in the last five games), Derek Stepan, Vinnie Hinostroza and Richard Panik, and two to Michael Grabner, both shorthanded.

Grabner became the fourth player in Coyotes history to score two shorthanded goals in a game, joining Stepan, Tobias Rieder, and Keith Tkachuk. The shorthanded goals continued a theme of successful penalty killing this year for the Coyotes, who trail only the Lightning as the second-best PK percentage in the league. Arizona is plus-2 on its penalty kill this season.

The lone goal Arizona gave up couldn’t have been more strange, as Tyler Johnson tried to move the puck from the half wall and it deflected into the air — similar to a pop fly in baseball — and it landed in the net behind Raanta without him noticing. It spoiled Raanta’s shutout.

Technically, therefore, Raanta stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced. Domingue stopped 23 of 30.

UP NEXT

Tocchet said before this current five-game homestand that this stretch would be an important one for his team because the Coyotes could prove whether they can defend home ice and string some wins together. They’ve won the first two games on the homestand, and now host the Ottawa Senators (4-4-1) for Game No. 3 on Tuesday.

After that, Arizona hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday and the Philadelphia Flyers the following Monday.


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