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Coyotes’ up-and-down season continues with win in Las Vegas

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith (19) misses a penalty shot against Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

When they go up, they are going to go back down. And then they are going to go back up again.

That has been the Arizona Coyotes’ 2018-19 season, a startling inability to stay consistent. Well, they are consistent. Just at being inconsistent.

The team opened the season dropping four of its first five games. After that, they won six of seven before losing eight of its next 10 games. A four-game winning streak followed and then came falling in seven of its next eight games. They bounced back, coming out on top in three of four before naturally being defeated in three in a row. A five-game run that included four wins brought them back up before losing six of eight had them come back down.

Then the Coyotes beat Dallas on Saturday, bringing us to Tuesday’s matchup in Las Vegas. As you might have guessed by now, the trend continued, with a 5-2 victory bringing on yet another streak of the winning or losing variety.

A big-time performance and 41 saves from goaltender Darcy Kuemper bailed out Arizona on a night they were outshot 43-26.

The Coyotes were outshot in a scoreless first period 16-6 and that issue didn’t stop in the second period.

Kuemper was holding the Golden Knights scoreless, though, and then the Coyotes capitalized on the power play.

Midway through the second period, center Derek Stepan’s patient buildup play allowed defenseman Jordan Oesterle to slide into the backdoor.

Stepan executed the difficult pass brilliantly across the ice and it was a simple open-net finish for Oesterle’s sixth goal of the season.

Only a few minutes later, Alex Galchenyuk found himself on a breakaway and shook Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-0.

A quick equalizer came back from the opposition.

Brandon Pirri scored for the Golden Knights 29 seconds after Galchenyuk’s goal to make it 2-1.

With 3:27 to go in the second, we saw a rare penalty shot after Vegas’ Reilly Smith was hooked from behind.

In a stroke of luck, Smith’s shot fake-to-backhand maneuver completely fooled Kuemper, but the shot went off the post and out.

More good fortune came less than two minutes later when Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb’s clever near-side attempt on goal went off the crossbar.

The Coyotes were seemingly holding on for dear life before intermission, and to no surprise, the Golden Knights tied the game before the end of the period via Nate Schmidt with only 29.7 seconds remaining.

The luck came back for the Coyotes in the third period.

Fleury overplayed a Coyotes shot from the point, and during his recovery to get back between the pipes, he found himself on the ice as the puck was behind the net. Coyotes forward Richard Panik knew what to do from there, putting the puck to the front of the net.

His pass found Cousins, who scored from there to put the Coyotes back in front 3-2.

At that point, the Coyotes locked up enough defensively to wait for one more opportunity, and when Arizona’s Josh Archibald was in a 2-on-1, he scored to give the Coyotes a much-needed insurance goal and a 4-2 lead with just over two minutes remaining.

Vegas emptied the net and Panik got a goal of his own from that, making it a 5-2 win for the Coyotes.

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