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‘Crunch time’: Coyotes homestand ends with blown lead, loss

Arizona Coyotes' Alex Goligoski, left, goaltender Antti Raanta, second from left, defenseman Jakob Chychrun (6) and center Christian Dvorak (18) pause on the ice after a goal by Carolina Hurricanes' Andrei Svechnikov, his second during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Tocchet didn’t leave much room for excuse for his Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

There wasn’t a reminder that goaltender Darcy Kuemper is injured, or that the schedule is too tough, or that the offense didn’t get its bounces. Arizona led 2-0, and then it didn’t, losing 5-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes.

“We just did dumb things and that’s what upsets me and the staff. It’s just stupidity,” he said. “There’s nothing else to sugarcoat it. You guys saw it. I don’t know what else to say. You’ve got to play gritty.”

On one or two Carolina goals, one could make the case that crazy bounces were tough breaks for the Coyotes. But four goals, plus an empty-netter, were too many. Arizona failed to stop the Hurricanes offense, which includes dangerous forwards like Andrei Svechnikov, who scored twice and added an assist.

“When we let in one or two, we’ve got to find a way to really put the clamps on,” Jakob Chychrun said. “I think we might have started to panic a little bit and we let up a couple. So we’ve just got to grab a hold of it at some point.”

So why weren’t the floodgates kept closed? Is it just a matter of remaining steady emotionally?

“That’s something you just have to do,” Chychrun said. “You can’t get too high or too low on yourself. You’ve just got to get ready for the next shift and let it go, or whatever you’ve got to do get ready for the next one, just continue to push forward, continue to play our style.”

Neither Chychrun nor Tocchet said they believed that any sort of “mojo” or emotional stability has been lost over time. But here’s what has changed: The Coyotes were once in first place in the Pacific Division, but most recently have lost nine of the last 11. Arizona has seven points in that 11-game stretch.

“You’ve got to get through people and you’ve got to get on people,” Tocchet said. “And it really upsets the staff because this is crunch time.”

In some good fortune, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton all lost on Thursday night. Those teams are a few that are competing with the Coyotes in the Pacific Division and/or Wild Card race. Winnipeg and Vegas each won.

There’s also the fact that 26 games remain in the season; that’s more than a quarter of the season still to be played. There is time. But winning in convincing fashion against Edmonton on Tuesday was followed up with a loss, an issue that can’t become a trend in a tight playoff race.

“We liked our game against Edmonton and we liked the start tonight,” Conor Garland said. “Just a couple mistakes and against a good team, they’re in the back of the net.”

Up next is a long road trip. The Coyotes only get Friday off before having to play at 1 p.m. MST in Boston on Saturday, and then a back-to-back at Montreal and Toronto on Monday and Tuesday. The trip ends at Ottawa next Thursday.

THE GAME ITSELF

Alex Goligoski made it 1-0 in the first period with less than five minutes to go in the frame. Christian Dvorak made it 2-0 on the power play, assisted by Nick Schmaltz and Goligoski. Exactly one minute later, Carolina cut the deficit in half.

But Svechnikov’s quick answer was soon followed by another goal, this time on a shot by defenseman Jaccob Slavin. Ryan Dzingel was left free behind the Coyotes net and fed a pass to the open Slavin, who scored to make it 2-2. Svechnikov soon scored his second of the night to make it 3-2, marking three Hurricanes goals in a span of 5:55.

Just 1:03 into the third period, Carolina scored again. It was nearly Svechnikov for a hat trick, except his initial shot was denied and then cleaned up by Sebastian Aho. Garland answered back with a third-period goal, but that was it for the Coyotes. An empty-netter by Aho made for a 5-3 final.

Arizona out-shot Carolina 33-31 as Antti Raanta made 26 saves. James Reimer was in net for the Canes, stopping 30 shots.


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