Christian Dvorak’s big game lifts Coyotes to win on Thanksgiving Eve
GLENDALE, Ariz. — American Thanksgiving is often cited as a key date on the NHL schedule. The Arizona Coyotes have played their last game before that key date in 2019.
Wednesday night’s contest with the Anaheim Ducks saw Christian Dvorak score twice in regulation, followed up by the game-deciding shootout goal as the Coyotes won, 4-3. It was the eighth game in a row against a Pacific Division team that the Coyotes got at least a point.
“It’s nice to eat turkey when you’re winning,” head coach Rick Tocchet said.
Last year, hockey journalist Nick Alberga noted that in the previous five seasons, 62 of the 80 teams in playoffs spots by Thanksgiving went on to make the playoffs. That statistic might even be more notable in 2019 as Thanksgiving comes particularly late in the month of November.
The Coyotes will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, thankful that they’re in second place in the Pacific Division. That’s a playoff spot, and they trail first-place Edmonton by only two points. Three other teams are tied for the third and final divisional playoff spot in the Pacific.
Dvorak was the latest key difference-maker in Arizona’s win on Wednesday night.
COYOTES BEAT DUCKS IN THE SHOOTOUT
Arizona (15-8-3) and Anaheim (11-12-3) played a back-and-forth game that saw the Ducks rally back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, eventually taking their first lead of the game in the third period. After the Ducks went up 3-2, though, the Coyotes answered right back with a goal from Alex Goligoski just 0:38 later.
Goligoski’s point total increased to 15 on the season, tying him for second on the team. He leads all Coyotes defensemen in points this year.
The goals from Dvorak and Goligoski were all the Coyotes would get in regulation, as Anaheim goalie John Gibson made saves on multiple quality scoring chances by Arizona. One of those was maybe the best save made against the Coyotes this season, as Michael Grabner was robbed on a chance in front.
“We were generating,” Dvorak said of the offense. “I think there’s still room for improvement, something we’ve got to work on in practice, things like that. But it was decent offensively. But first and foremost, we’ve got to work on our D-zone.”
Indeed, the Coyotes were in their own zone a lot on Wednesday night as they were outshot 34-28. Darcy Kuemper made 31 saves for Arizona.
“We’ve got some guys, you’ve got to play some defense,” Tocchet said. “You’ve got to get in front of people. This is a tough league. They played a hard game. We’re going to play teams that are going to play hard against us. We’ve got to play harder. And it is what it is.”
Anaheim goals by Brendan Guhle, Sam Steel and Troy Terry forced overtime for the two teams, and the Coyotes didn’t score in the five-minute 3-on-3, despite getting all of a 4-on-3 power play.
“I liked our start. Got a little sloppy,” Tocchet said of the game as a whole. “We’ve got to work on some details. I don’t know if — and I keep bringing up — the non-practices for the last three, four weeks is catching up to us, because the details of some guys is not good. And we’ve got to get it squared. But it’s nice when you’re winning games to square these things up.”
The good news: Dvorak’s power play goal not only gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead in the first period, but it also meant Arizona went 1-for-2 on the power play on Wednesday, meaning that group is 5-for-12 (41.6%) going back to a game last Monday against the Kings.
On the season, Arizona’s power play is at 18.4%, good for just 20th in the NHL.
That power play goal was a tip-in off a shot from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, whose assist on the play moved him into 11th place in franchise history in points, passing Radim Vrbata.
Dvorak’s second goal was a back-hander past Gibson after Vinnie Hinostroza’s initial shot resulted in a loose puck in front.
The pair of goals were Dvorak’s seventh and eighth of the season; he now is second on the team in goals behind Conor Garland, who has 10.
Garland, by the way, also had a shootout goal on Wednesday night. Ondrej Kase scored the Ducks’ only shootout goal.