Coyotes win 3rd straight game, beat Ottawa at home to finish homestand
GLENDALE, Ariz. — A long-standing axiom of sports is that good teams can be identified by their ability to beat inferior teams at home.
Few are expecting the Ottawa Senators to be among the NHL’s better teams this season. The jury is still out on which side of the playoff bubble the Coyotes will finish when the year is through. But the Coyotes beat the Senators, 5-2, at home on Saturday for a third consecutive victory.
This, despite the Coyotes (4-2-1) giving up two third-period goals and getting outshot in the frame, 21-12 (the shots for the whole game favored Ottawa 36-27).
“I liked our first two periods, they didn’t have much for those first two periods,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We locked it down. In the third, we were really sloppy.
“The results are good. I like the way our team’s been playing all year. We were a little sloppy in the third. We’ve got to be careful. Even-keel guy, but we’ve got to be able to learn how to handle prosperity, too. We can’t get too high on ourselves. We’re not that type of team.”
Ottawa (1-5-1) got a breakaway goal from Vladislav Namestnikov and a goal from the slot by Chris Tierney in the third period. Apart from that, goaltender Antti Raanta made 34 saves and got his first win since Nov. 2, 2018.
“I think last 20 saves came in [the] third period,” Raanta said, drawing chuckles. “Obviously we were playing really good. We didn’t give them much in the first two [periods].”
Arizona now has nine out of the 10 possible points in its last five games.
SPECIAL TEAMS TRENDS
The Coyotes called up defenseman Aaron Ness on Saturday after placing defenseman Jordan Oesterle on IR. Oesterle was hit in the back of the head with a puck on Thursday, received stitches and was still dizzy the next day.
With the injuries to Oesterle and Niklas Hjalmarsson, defensemen Kyle Capobianco and Ilya Lyubushkin both played on Saturday.
Capobianco scored his first NHL goal.
“Probably just to my parents’ house,” he said when asked what will happen to the puck he scored with. “Use it as a coaster or something.”
Jokes aside, Capobianco’s success at the NHL level — and same for Lyubushkin — will be key for the Coyotes. The team relies heavily on its defense to win games, and Hjalmarsson in particular is among the better defensive defensemen in the league.
“We’re going to need them,” Tocchet said of the two young D. “There’s a lot of games coming up here in a short amount of days. These guys have got to be able to play in certain situations. Cap’s playing PK. He probably wouldn’t play that much or at all if we were healthy.”
The Coyotes’ penalty kill going back to the start of last year, with Hjalmarsson in the lineup, is successful 85.4 percent of the time (best in the NHL in that span). In four games without Hjalmarsson, albeit a small sample size, the PK is at 73.3% (11-for-15).
“I know when I get called up, I’ve just got to play my game and take advantage of the opportunity,” Capobianco said. “You never want to see someone go down, especially big guys like Hammer [Hjalmarsson] and Oz [Oesterle], they’re so vital to this team.”
As for the power play, it’s turned lately for the better.
The Coyotes didn’t have a power play goal in their first four games this year, but they’ve converted on a whopping six of their last 13 opportunities for a 46.15% success rate. While obviously unsustainable, that’s good news.
The lone power play goal on Saturday was scored by Carl Soderberg, set up by a pass from Conor Garland. Garland also scored on Saturday and now leads the team in goals with four — go figure.
“My goal tonight is all by Schmaltzy,” Garland said, referring to Nick Schmaltz. “That’s just a perfect pass. Those guys, we’ve got a good top six that can create, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Garland now has five points in seven games this year.
The goal-scorers Saturday: Capobianco, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Garland, Soderberg, Lawson Crouse (empty net).
— The Coyotes held a pre-game ceremony to honor Phil Kessel, who played in his 1,000th NHL game a week ago. The ceremony included former captain Shane Doan and Kessel’s family members as guests.