Stars align: Kessel, Hall score 2 apiece in Coyotes’ win over Sharks
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The two goals Phil Kessel scored in the Arizona Coyotes’ 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night were good examples of why Arizona traded for him.
“That’s a major-league shot,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “He should be doing that all the time. Like unless somebody’s wide open with a tap-in, he should shoot it. Because he’s the better option, I think.”
Kessel was the shiny new weapon of the Coyotes entering this season, but his year didn’t start off on the right foot. He was reportedly dealing with an injury — “I don’t think he was feeling great,” Tocchet said — and he scored just three goals in his first 23 games. He’s since scored eight goals in his last 26 games, totaling 11 on the season.
Kessel’s first goal on Tuesday:
Kessel’s second goal on Tuesday:
He also had an assist on Tuesday, making him one of four Coyotes to earn three points in the win over the Sharks. He’s been playing on a line with Derek Stepan and Lawson Crouse.
“They really set the pace for us,” Tocchet said. “That’s the shot we want Phil to shoot.”
Taylor Hall, also, had two goals and an assist on Tuesday. His second goal was an empty-netter, but the first was a net-front deflection on a shot from defenseman Jordan Oesterle. He’s also impacted Arizona’s games in more subtle ways, especially lately, with things like puck retrievals, crisp passing, strong skating and more.
“[Hall] and [Conor] Garland are feeling it. They’ve got a good chemistry together,” Tocchet said of the two, who play together on the top line. “Hallsy hates to lose. You can tell. He’s got the speed and he’s starting to fit in. He knows the system. He’s asking a lot of questions lately. You can just tell that he’s finding his groove.”
Hall has 10 points in his last eight games. He also has four goals in his last five games.
“It’s always tough when you get traded, but he’s settled in pretty well so far,” Kessel said. “Obviously he’s a big help to our team and a big addition, and hopefully we can all keep it going.”
THE GAME ITSELF
Arizona’s (26-18-5) first period saw plenty of scoring chances (“high-danger scoring chances” were 7-6 in favor of the Coyotes through 20 minutes, per Natural Stat Trick). But it was 1-0 after one thanks to Kessel’s goal from the right side.
“When we simplify, we’re real dangerous,” Stepan said.
San Jose made a push in the middle frame with goals from Kevin Lebanc and Timo Meier to tie it at 2-2, and later cut the Coyotes’ lead to 4-3 in the third period on an Evander Kane goal. But Lawson Crouse’s goal in the third and two empty netters — from Garland and Hall — were enough to seal the victory.
Stepan, Kessel, Garland and Hall each had three points.
Crouse’s goal was his 11th of the season, which already matches a career high for him at the NHL level. He also had an assist on Tuesday.
“I just think I’m playing with a lot more confidence,” Crouse said of his 2019-20 season. “When you don’t have it, it’s hard to come by. So you’ve just got to do whatever you can to get that right food forward. And just continuing to grow and realizing when you have a bad game, you really need to bounce back. And I think that’s kind of been the story of our team this year.”
Adin Hill was in goal for Arizona and Aaron Dell was in the crease for San Jose. The Coyotes out-shot San Jose 40-28, and 31-16 in the final two periods.
The Coyotes are now 5-2-1 since going on a three-game losing streak in late December. They’ve also earned points in the standings in five consecutive home games. Defending home ice was a chronic issue for Arizona for much of this season.
“If you want to be a playoff team, at the end of the year, you’ve got to make your own building very difficult to play in,” Stepan said. “And I thought we’ve done a good job of tilting that; maybe a slow start at the beginning of the year on home ice.”
Arizona finds itself in first place in the Pacific Division again, with two games left to play (Thu. at VAN, Sat. at EDM) before a 10-day break for a “bye week” and an All-Star break. After this week, the Coyotes don’t play again until Jan. 29.
— Coyotes center Brad Richardson left the game with a lower-body injury. Tocchet didn’t have a specific update on him after the game.
— Goaltenders update: Antti Raanta (lower-body) is day-to-day and may practice on Wednesday, Tocchet said. Darcy Kuemper (lower-body) will not play before the All-Star break.