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Coyotes seek exit from rough stretch that continues vs. Kings

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Ben Hutton (15) and Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan (21) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sports seasons for any team seem to always have peaks and valleys. The Arizona Coyotes are clearly, as of Thursday, in a valley.

“You find you’re going to have adversity through the season,” Rick Tocchet said. “Right now, we’re hitting it. We’re having a tough time winning games.”

Arizona lost 3-2 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. But that loss is only a sliver of the concern; players and the head coach spent most of the postgame interview sessions zoomed out on the bigger picture as the Coyotes have lost seven of their last eight games. They have four points (a win and two overtime/shootout losses) in that span.

There’s 29 games left in an extremely tight Pacific Division playoff race.

“There’s no sense of beating ourselves up on it,” Derek Stepan said. “We have no time to dwell on anything right now. There is zero time for it. So we shift our focus to Saturday night, and each night, the importance of those two points gets bigger and bigger.”

Arizona’s game against the Kings on Thursday was not atrocious. Arizona had a 2-1 lead with less than three minutes in regulation. They outshot L.A. 25-20 through two periods. The Coyotes won 59% of the faceoffs. The Coyotes alluded to that multiple times in separate instances:

“Guys worked hard,” Tocchet said. “We’re going to stay positive.

“I thought we played a pretty good game. We had a couple guys had a chance at the end to win it.”

“We build on the positives tonight,” Stepan said. “Through this stretch, I felt like that was closer to what we want. We just keep building.”

Positivity is good. If you listen to the team explain the remedy for climbing out of this whole, positivity was key:

“You can’t dwell on these losses,” forward Nick Schmaltz said. “We got a point out of it tonight, but we’ve got to bounce back with a big effort on Saturday.”

“You’ve got to keep your energy level up,” Tocchet said. “You have to. You’ve got to stick together. That’s the way it is.”

The Chicago Blackhawks are up next on Saturday.

“I think you go through your ups and downs throughout the year, and obviously this isn’t the time we want to have one of those low points, but it’s going to happen,” Schmaltz said. “We’ve got to put together a good stretch here and really start to bank some points.”

THE GAME ITSELF

Arizona was outshot 37-28 in total, including 16-3 in the third period alone when the Coyotes had a 2-1 lead.

“In the third there, I thought we were sitting back a little bit, maybe just trying to preserve the lead instead of trying to stick it to them and kind of stepping on their throat and end it,” Schmaltz said.

Adin Hill was in net for the Coyotes, and Jack Campbell was in goal for Los Angeles. Campbell made 22 saves to Hill’s 29.

The Coyotes got out to a 1-0 deficit after a period of play, but goals by Christian Dvorak and Schmaltz in the second period made it 2-1. The Kings scored with 2:54 left in regulation to tie it, and then another goal just 0:24 into overtime.

All three Los Angeles goals came from Alex Iafallo for the hat trick. He now has 14 goals on the season.

QUICK HITS

— Defenseman and captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson exited the game with a lower-body injury and did not return. Rick Tocchet didn’t yet have an update on the health of his captain after the game.


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