Coyotes lose at home to desperate Devils, but remain in 1st place
GLENDALE, Ariz. — As the New Jersey Devils visited Arizona, their star player was arguably the biggest story in the NHL at the moment. But the Devils beat the Coyotes without him.
Taylor Hall watched from the press box as his struggling Devils, who are expected to trade Hall and sat the former MVP precautionarily, beat Arizona 2-1 on Saturday to snap a seven-game winless streak.
“That’s a game that’s going to sting a bit,” defenseman Jakob Chychrun said. “It’s a game we feel we should have won. I think we had a ton of chances, and their goalie [Mackenzie Blackwood] made some timely saves, as did ours [Darcy Kuemper]. I think just a tough one.”
It wasn’t the crispest of games, but wins are wins. Losses are losses. Arizona can be glad it’s division rivals suffered the same fate (Calgary and Edmonton both lost Saturday), so the Coyotes remain in first place in the Pacific Division.
Maybe their place atop the standings is part of why they lost; getting teams’ best at a time when New Jersey desperately needed a win.
“I told these guys today, that’s what’s going to happen,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “It’s not the old days where we’re chasing everybody and you can surprise people. Now people are going to be ready to play. We can’t afford to throw games away.”
“Any time you’re up at the top, you’re going to have teams more aware of you,” Alex Goligoski said. “They come into your building and they know they’re going to need a good effort to win, so we’re seeing a little bit of that. We’re aware of that, and we’ve just got to find a way to get the results here at home.”
Home hasn’t been as sweet as they’d like. The Coyotes fell to 8-8-1 at home for 17 points, tied for the third-lowest total in the NHL.
“You’re scratching your head, trying to understand a lot of things,” Tocchet said of the home struggles. “But like I said, there’s opportunities for us to make a play or get the puck to the net and get a greasy goal. Everything can’t be pretty. Sometimes there’s going to be a 1-1 game, and you’ve really got to just will yourself a goal or will yourself a play to the net.”
That nearly happened. Goligoski was open on the backdoor in the third period and Nick Schmaltz found him on a pass from the slot, but Goligoski couldn’t connect. It wasn’t long after that New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri scored the game-winning goal with 8:26 to go in regulation to make it 2-1.
Goligoski did, however, score on a wrist shot in the first period on the power play. Jesper Boqvist scored in the first frame, too, meaning the game was knotted at 1-1 for much of the evening.
Kuemper and Blackwood each made 31 saves as Arizona was outshot 33-32.
The Devils won on the second half of a back-to-back, having played on Friday night in Colorado.
“There’s no reason for us not to match their intensity and outwork them,” Chychrun said. “I think we had chances to put the puck in the back of the net and just couldn’t find a way to do it.”