Resilience doesn’t prevail in Coyotes’ ‘disheartening’ loss to Golden Knights

Dec 30, 2018, 9:46 PM
Vegas Golden Knights center Cody Eakin (21) celebrates his goal against Arizona Coyotes goaltender ...
Vegas Golden Knights center Cody Eakin (21) celebrates his goal against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) with Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden (22), left wing William Carrier (28), defenseman Brad Hunt (77), and center Ryan Carpenter, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. The Golden Knights defeated the Coyotes 5-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — “Resilience” is a good word to describe how the Coyotes had played recently.

On Saturday night, they came back to win in overtime after being down 4-2 in the third period. Before the holiday break, Arizona blew a 4-1 lead, only to score a game-winner and empty-netter to beat Colorado at home 6-4. The night after that, the Coyotes gave up a late game-tying goal but forced a shootout and won. Earlier in December, they were down 3-0 in New York but came back to win in overtime.

On Sunday night against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Coyotes couldn’t keep it going. Last year’s Stanley Cup runner-up beat Arizona 5-1 in a packed Gila River Arena as the Coyotes were outshot 37-30 and Darcy Kuemper made 32 saves.

“Whether it’s a broken record or not, it’s really disheartening because we had some positive things going the last three or four games. To just blow it up like this is very disheartening,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I’m really disappointed in the players. We have a day off tomorrow, I hope some guys really do some — they’re going to have to look at themselves because it’s not fun when that happens.”

Three of Vegas’ goals came in the third period, a frame that captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson called “embarrassing.”

“We had a chance to get back in the game,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I thought the first and the second [periods] we kind of hung around the game and had a chance to do something on the power play, and came out and played really, really poor hockey. Didn’t compete, didn’t do much out there to be honest with you and they kept working hard.”

Ekman-Larsson assisted on Arizona’s only goal, scored by Alex Galchenyuk, putting OEL first in Coyotes history among defensemen with 312 points. Galchenyuk’s goal meant that he now has three goals and four assists in his last five games.

Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz also scored, but the goal was disallowed after a successful challenge for offside by the Golden Knights.

The loss meant the Coyotes failed to continue a stretch in which they had won three of their last four games.

“You don’t pound your chest because you win a hockey game,” Tocchet said. “Like hey, great, game’s over, be a professional. Next day. It’s 24 hours later. We had Vegas a couple times, we had good possession time and then they stuck with it and we didn’t. It’s as simple as that. Whether you want to use injuries, not depth, that’s fine. I don’t use that excuse. I just saw a team go totally south on us.

“It’s not everybody. There’s a handful of guys that just were very, very casual. Very casual.”

Arizona entered the night seven points out of a second wild card spot, and it remains that way as their game was the only one on the NHL schedule on Sunday.

“You want to be a good NHL hockey team or player, you’ve got to be consistent. That’s it. You’ve got to be consistent,” Tocchet said. “It’s hard to be a consistent player. It’s hard to go middle-drive, it’s hard to go hard on the puck, it’s hard to be a double-up guy. It’s hard to go to the net, to do it all the time. That’s what good teams do. So maybe we have some players here that just can’t do it regularly and we’re going to have to find some players that will.”

Paul Stastny, Reilly Smith, Cody Eakin, Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter each scored for Vegas.

Arizona also continued a trend that’s plagued them all season, failing to convert on power play chances apart from Galchenyuk’s goal during a 5-on-3 advantage. The Coyotes were 1-for-6 on the power play Sunday and have a 17.32 percent success rate on the power play, which is 22nd in the NHL.

When asked whether the power play is becoming a concerning trend, defenseman Alex Goligoski noted that the unit has been successful at times, but not consistent.

“It seems to go in waves on the power play,” Goligoski said. “We’ve been getting some goals lately. But the consistency from the power play isn’t really there. I suppose it’s a concern and it’s something we work at every day, so I’m sure we’ll continue to do that.”

“You lose, you lose the right way, I understand,” Tocchet said. “But this was — we lost the wrong way tonight.”

Arizona’s game Sunday was final one it will play in the year 2018, putting the team’s record in the calendar year at 37-34-9. The Coyotes’ pre-new-year record this season was 17-20-2, whereas last season it was only 9-27-5. This makes for a marked improvement at this point in the year compared to last, but more than half the season remains now for Arizona.

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