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Coyotes ‘rise to the challenge’, beat Capitals and Ovechkin

Antti Raanta #32, Ilya Lyubushkin #46, Brad Richardson #15 of the Arizona Coyotes and Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals watch the puck during the third period at Gila River Arena on February 15, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes won 3-1. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images )

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals entered a Saturday night game at the Arizona Coyotes with 698 career goals.

For a player who had 14 goals in a seven-game stretch that ended this month, it seemed entirely plausible that he could score two against the Coyotes to become the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700. Instead, he was held without a point as the Coyotes won, 3-1.

The win was far more important for the Coyotes than avoiding having history play out in their home building. It was Arizona’s third win in 12 games, but it also meant the Coyotes earned five of the previous eight possible points.

“We’ve been playing pretty good,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I think everybody’s hammering on us a little too much. I think we’ve been playing pretty good. We’ve had our moments. Obviously, the Ottawa [loss on Thursday] is a sour taste. Guys had that long flight yesterday, and I’m really proud of the guys.”

The Coyotes were out-shot 37-30, but won 52% of faceoffs and scored on the power play, while holding the Capitals to 0-for-3 on their power play.

It came as the Coyotes have played seven games in the last 12 days, four of those being on an East Coast road trip that took them through eastern Canada and ended just this past Thursday. After a day off on Friday to travel, the Coyotes played first-place Washington at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“We had a morning skate, a couple guys came up to me and said they didn’t have any legs, they felt it,” Tocchet said. “But listen, you’ve got to gut it out. We have a day off tomorrow, we have to play at 2 o’clock on Monday. That’s just the way it is.

“That’s a tough spot. That’s not an easy flight [from Ottawa] yesterday for the guys. They rose to the challenge.”

The Coyotes could really benefit from Saturday’s win becoming the start of a trend. Even after earning two points against Washington, the Coyotes find themselves in fifth place in the Pacific Division (but only three points back of first place), in the Western Conference’s second Wild Card spot.

It also would mean a lot if Antti Raanta continued to have games like he did on Saturday. He bested Washington’s Braden Holtby, who was also superb, as Raanta made 36 saves on 37 shots faced. Holtby made 27 saves.

“It’s also that you have to be like this every night,” Raanta said. “You can’t play one good game, a couple bad ones, two good games and then a bad one. So that’s kind of the thing. Consistent level has to be higher.”

After a scoreless first period, Christian Dvorak scored on a feed from Conor Garland at 7:06 in the second period. Washington answered back later in the period with a goal from Carl Hagelin, making it 1-1.

But more than five minutes into the third period, Phil Kessel scored by deflecting in a shot taken by Jakob Chychrun on the power play. Lawson Crouse’s empty-net goal made it 3-1 late, and the Coyotes secured the win. Arizona is 2-0 against Washington this season.

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