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Coyotes let lead slip away in physical game vs. Stars, lose 3rd straight

Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen (4) collides with Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The most memorable moments of the Arizona Coyotes’ game against the Dallas Stars on Sunday night were injuries and melees. It was that sort of game.

The Coyotes’ 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars wasn’t pretty, though not because of the scrappiness and pushing and shoving and extra-curricular plays after the whistle. It was ugly because the Coyotes dominated play for at least two periods and took a 2-0 lead into second intermission, only to give up four third-period goals and lose the game 4-2.

That was Arizona’s (21-16-4) third consecutive loss and fourth in the last five games as it arrives at the halfway point in its season, having played exactly 41 games.

“It’s going to get harder,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “When you’re in these moments, you need to make a play either way. Not just scoring goals, it’s the other way. You could be as simple as a good stick on a puck. It could be, puck comes around the wall, getting that puck out. Those are valued details that we have some guys have to value that. That’s a value play.

“The result is to score a goal, but there’s so much into winning hockey before that play.”

Tocchet expressed that his team failed to make three plays in particular that resulted in Dallas taking the game back in the third period. Dallas’ fourth goal was an empty-netter. The Coyotes’ losing streak could be remedied by fixing up the details (Tocchet felt the Coyotes were in control for most of the game), but this adversity comes at a time when the intensity of games ramps up for a playoff push.

“I think we’ve kept our losing streaks to a minimum,” Tocchet said, noting this is their first three-game regulation skid of the season. “So that’s a good thing. But you’ve got to stop it, right? You’ve got to learn from your mistakes. You’ve got to train your mind under pressure, when the heat’s on you.”

In a strange way, Sunday was nonetheless a good response to how things fared on Saturday: The Coyotes lost 4-1 in Vegas and Antti Raanta was pulled. On Sunday, Raanta played again and looked sharp, and the Coyotes dominated play for a good portion of the game against Dallas.

“It was definitely a good response, great first period, and I thought we had a good second, as well,” Brad Richardson said. “They brought it in the third, and we couldn’t hang on.

“Just a little lackluster in the third, but I think the way we started and carried that through most of the game was pretty good.”

The first game of the Coyotes’ second half is on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, at home against the defending champion St. Louis Blues. Arizona is trying to get back into first place in the Pacific Division as this skid has taken them out of the top spot.

THE GAME ITSELF

In front of Sunday’s shutout crowd, Arizona’s Raanta went against Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and the Coyotes outshot the Stars 35-25. Raanta had 21 saves to Khudobin’s 33.

Taylor Hall scored his second goal with the Coyotes and first at home when Conor Garland batted a puck out of the air to create a loose puck in front of the Dallas net. Hall shot it home. Garland later scored one of his own at a sharp angle to make it 2-0, and both of those goals were in the first period.

In between those tallies, Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for interference when he hit Jamie Benn while en route to a loose puck. The Stars weren’t happy, and the physicality of the game only intensified. Later, in the final seconds of regulation, Benn provoked Ekman-Larsson with some cross-checks along the bench wall, causing a dust-up between the two teams.

“He told me that he was going to come after me, so I was kind of expecting that one,” Ekman-Larsson said. “But I mean that’s what happened. I went after him in the first period, so I kind of expected him to come after me. that’s how it works. It’s no hard feelings. That’s hockey.”

After the initial hit on Benn in the first period, Taylor Hall drew the ire of Stars players when he delivered a clean hit on Mattias Janmark but caught him mostly in the leg, incidentally. Janmark left the ice without putting weight on his leg, but he eventually returned.

After a physical and action-packed first period, shots on goal were 22-5 Arizona.

In the second period, Derek Stepan was taken out of the game after Dallas’ Jamie Oleksiak delivered a crushing hit that caught Stepan in the head. Stepan was already wearing a full face shield from a play in Saturday night’s loss.

Tocchet confirmed that Stepan was in concussion protocol.

“He got dinged pretty good,” Tocchet said. “He’s not too happy right now. I haven’t really re-watched it and stuff like that. But hopefully he’ll be OK.”

In the third period, things unraveled. Benn, Alexander Radulov, Roope Hintz and Janmark (empty-netter) scored in that order to take the game from 2-0 Arizona to 4-2 Dallas.

“It’s going to be this kind of hockey from here on out,” Jason Demers said. “We’ve got to just be prepared to play. It’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be dirty. The refs are going to call a little bit less. So I think it’s just on us — it’s another learning process for us.”


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