ARIZONA COYOTES

Injury to insult: Coyotes’ loss ends with Darcy Kuemper getting hurt

Dec 19, 2019, 11:22 PM
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) grimaces in pain as Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Ha...
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (35) grimaces in pain as Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman (38) skates past during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. Kuemper left the game, which the Wild won 8-5. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes’ baffling 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night may not even end up being the biggest blow they were dealt.

Darcy Kuemper, the Coyotes’ starting goaltender who entered the game as the clear Vezina Trophy frontrunner, left with an injury after making a save with his right pad. Nobody collided with him, and he didn’t collide with anything. He was doing his job, and then he was down on the ice.

It wasn’t known how much time he may miss.

“I’ll talk to the doc after this, see where he’s at,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “That’s a tough one to watch. I’m taking the positive … I’ve seen things that look bad and the next day, they’re not as bad. So that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Kuemper, before he got hurt, didn’t play well — but neither did the team as a whole. Tocchet said he was never inclined to remove Kuemper from the game, despite the fact that the Wild had scored on him seven times.

“It was 5-5. I’m not pulling Kuemps,” Tocchet said. “Even 6-5, he deserves to stay in there. The guy’s been a rock for us all year. We’re trying to get him a win. Whether we win 9-8, sometimes it’d be nice to win for the goalie. I’m not going to pull him.

“He was having a tough night, but still — he was still battling. I’m not going to pull him out. What he’s done for this team since January? Not a chance.”

Kuemper had a .935 save percentage coming into the game, the best mark in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 15 starts. He is clearly a key piece to a Coyotes team that relies heavily on goal prevention.

“You hate to see that. He was in a lot of pain,” Chychrun said. “A lot of prayers for Darc’. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it looks, and hopefully he can come back 100%. That’s most important, is his health. We wish him, obviously, nothing but the best. Scary to see and tough to see that, for sure.”

If Kuemper does miss any period of time, up next is Antti Raanta. He owns a .919 save percentage this season and a .924 mark since joining the Coyotes.

THE GAME

The game itself was a mess, for better or for worse. The Coyotes took a 1-0 lead into first intermission, but gave up four goals in the second period and trailed 4-2 after two. Arizona opened the third with two quick goals to tie it 4-4, but then gave two back to make it 6-4. The Coyotes never recovered, and an empty-netter at the end sealed it.

Phil Kessel, Jakob Chychrun (2), Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Clayton Keller scored for Arizona. Ryan Donato, Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, Eric Stall, Brad Hunt, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Suter and Luke Kunin scored for Minnesota.

“They just out-worked us,” Chychrun said. “It’s just disappointing. I think we were playing pretty well, and then we just let them outwork us. It’s just that simple. In the third, I think we came back hard and tried to put a good 20 together. It’s tough when you’re down a couple — you take a couple more risks and a couple more chances, and that kind of cost us, as well.

“It’s tough to be chasing the game like that.”

The irony of it all is that the Coyotes normally are stingy defensively and in net, which means they don’t need to score many goals to win. On Thursday, they got five and still lost. That was the first time since March 22, 2018 that Arizona lost a game despite scoring five or more goals. It had won 15 such games in a row.

“It’s kind of been the opposite all year, keeping teams to low-scoring games and us not being able to score,” Chychrun said. “When we finally put up a few, it’s tough to lose that. But it is what it is. We’ve just got to be better, we’ve got to work harder. We’ve just got to be ready for our road trip here before the break.”

“We had our chances, but we had no defensive conscience,” Tocchet said. “Swinging off your check, not getting under people. … It’s just uncharacteristic stuff. Maybe it’s the buzz and all the buzz is going around here, all of a sudden we’re going to become the Harlem Globetrotters.”

The home struggles continue, too. The Coyotes are now 8-9-1 at home. Arizona will need to defend home ice better, especially with its high aspirations.

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