Early mistakes cost Arizona Coyotes in loss to Bruins
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Entering play on Saturday, the Coyotes — who were in sixth place in the Pacific Division — were the only team in that strange division with a positive goal differential this season (plus-2).
Like their goal differential, the Coyotes’ loss to the Bruins on Saturday was one of thin margin. Mistakes early in the game made the difference, and an Arizona team that had a chance to improve to 6-3-0 at home this year instead lost to the injury-plagued Bruins, 2-1.
Boston — playing without Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and others — was playing its third road game in four nights and the second game of a back-to-back after playing in Dallas on Friday. The Coyotes had a chance to capitalize and win its third game in four tries, and win the sixth of their last seven home games.
What’s more, Arizona dominated possession in the second period and rebounded from its early slow start. But the defensive mistakes at the beginning of the game put the Coyotes in a hole that they didn’t climb out of.
“The first period, I don’t think we were ready to go,” Brad Richardson said. “Probably a mental– we weren’t strong on pucks, we weren’t finishing checks. That ended up costing us the game.”
Like Boston, the Coyotes were missing some key players themselves. On Friday, it was made known that defenseman Jason Demers had a serious injury that would keep him out “indefinitely,” the team said, or as 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro reported, until the end of the season. Defensemen Jakob Chychrun and Alex Goligoski were day-to-day, as was starting goaltender Antti Raanta. Forward Josh Archibald served the first game of a two-game suspension Saturday.
“Every team has injuries,” Richardson said. “You look at their roster, way more banged-up than I think we were. So, definitely a game I think in my opinion we should have beat them, we should have been ready to go, and they’re on a back-to-back, as well.”
Arizona started Darcy Kuemper in net, who made 21 saves as Arizona outshot the Bruins 33-22. Boston’s Jaroslav Halak made 32 stops.
When the game was still scoreless, David Pastrnak was left alone and Jordan Oesterle just got back in time to force Pastrnak — who had 35 goals last year — to the outside, taking a shot that Kuemper caught with his glove. But moments later, a turnover behind the Coyotes’ own net wound up being the first career goal for Boston’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
A minute-and-a-half later, Boston’s Jake DeBrusk tapped in a rebound after Brad Marchand got in on the scoring chance. It was 2-0 Bruins after just 2:45 of play.
A would-be third goal was overturned on goaltender interference, initiated by a coach’s challenge from Rick Tocchet.
The point being, the Coyotes had a bad start in game that they later proved was within reach. In the second period, the Bruins didn’t get a shot on goal until 14:27 in the period, and the Coyotes turned what was once a 6-2 shot deficit into a 21-10 advantage by second intermission.
“We had a great second period. We had our chances to get the equalizer,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We had a bunch of chances, we just didn’t score.”
But despite controlling play and getting quality scoring chances in the final two periods, Arizona couldn’t find the net except for a goal by Brad Richardson on a nice feed from Vinnie Hinstroza.
Richardson is leading the team in goals with six this season.
“We talked about having a good start,” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “Obviously we didn’t come out the way we wanted. We got down with two goals pretty quick there, and its tough to get back into it in this league if you come out like that.”
Arizona has three games left on its current homestand against Vegas, Colorado and Calgary.