Arizona Coyotes beat Calgary for 10th win in 13 games
GLENDALE, Ariz. — After winning six in a row, the Arizona Coyotes (33-29-5) played a dud. Two days later, they needed a big response.
It was imperative that they return to their winning form after Arizona’s six-game winning streak ended on Tuesday with a loss to the Ducks. The Coyotes were tasked with hosting the first-place Calgary Flames (41-20-7) on Thursday, a team against which Arizona was 0-3-0 on the season coming into the game (the Coyotes were outscored 18-4 in those three games).
The Coyotes beat the Flames, 2-0.
“I was little harsh on them after the [last] game because we all want to win so bad,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I think the bounce-back game after that Anaheim game was just huge.
“This team’s a hell of a team, Calgary, and they’re going to make some noise here. … They’ve got a lot of players that can play, and I thought we did a nice job.”
The Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars — who each hold the two Western Conference wild card spots — won on Thursday. The Avalanche, who sit between Arizona and the second wild card spot, lost to Dallas. The Coyotes needed the win.
Calgary outshot the Coyotes 30-25.
“[The Flames] had their moments,” Tocchet said. “We had ‘Kuemps’ who had to keep us in there, but we did a good job of hanging in there.”
Darcy Kuemper earned his third shutout of the season. He now owns a .949 save percentage since the start of the winning streak and a 9.20 save percentage on the season.
“Goaltending’s huge. He’s been unbelievable,” defenseman Jakob Chychrun said. “He’s a guy that he makes it look so easy in that net. He’s always so calm. He’s just a calming presence back there. He’s going to make the saves he should make, and I think that’s something that’s nice to rely on.”
Arizona was pressured early by Calgary’s forwards but got on the board first with a goal from Clayton Keller in the first period. It was Keller’s first goal in five games and his second since Jan. 22. It was assisted by Christian Dvorak, his first point of the season.
“Kells, he wasn’t happy, and it’s funny because he called me yesterday,” Tocchet said. “He wanted to watch video. ‘Coach, I have to watch video.’ We watched video, had a good talk, and he was determined tonight. That’s the Kells we all love, right there. He just played a determined game. That’s a big goal. Christian Dvorak with a nice assist there.
“That line was plus-two. That was big for us.”
The second Coyotes goal came later in the game when Jakob Chychrun scored from up high to make it 2-0. That was Chychrun’s fifth goal of the season.
“They’ve kind of had our number and we knew that going in tonight,” Chychrun said of the win. “We kind of owed them one. Yeah, it’s nice to put together a complete game there and not have any breakdowns for a few minutes of the game and blow things up. It was nice. A good team effort and it was good.”
Vinnie Hinostroza missed a penalty shot, and the Coyotes missed multiple tries to score on an empty net. But it wouldn’t matter, as Kuemper held the Flames scoreless. Calgary entered the game fourth in the NHL in goals-for, trailing only the Lightning, Maple Leafs and Sharks in that category.
Arizona held Calgary to 0-for-2 on the power play.
“Our kill has really paid off for us,” Chychrun said. “It’s kept us in games, it’s won us games. It’s something when you can rely on that to get a big kill, it can really get big momentum on your side, and that was a big case there in the start of the game.”
The Coyotes will finish their seven-game homestand on Saturday against the LA Kings.
Michael Grabner played his first game since Dec. 1 when he suffered a gruesome eye injury. He’s the latest Coyote to return to the lineup after being out with injury for some time, joining Dvorak and Jason Demers as players who have recently come back.
“It was a lot of fun,” Grabner said. “It’s been a while. I was sick of skating by myself out there, so it was nice to get back out there and play some meaningful games.”
He played on a line with Brad Richardson and Vinnie Hinostroza. That bumped Richard Panik to a top line with Dvorak and Keller.
“[My vision] is a little bit different than it used to be, but like I said, I just tried to keep it simple out there and it’s helped me out a lot, Richie and Vinnie talking to me and the ‘D,'” Grabner said. “I think we had a solid overall effort as a team here.”
Grabner led all Coyotes forwards in both ice time (17:40) and shots on goal (five).
“I thought Grabs played really well,” Tocchet said. “The guy hasn’t played in 41 games, he’s got a little bit of a disability and he played well.”
Grabner’s return is a big one. His prowess on the penalty kill, speed down the length of the ice and his ability to defend in the team’s own zone are all reasons why he provides significant value.
“It was a scary injury there. We were all very concerned for him and to see him come out on the other side is very nice. You realize that’s an injury that’s bigger than hockey, and to see him out on the ice tonight was awesome and it’s well-deserved.”