Arizona Coyotes drop Game 1 to Avalanche with late scoring flood
It felt inevitable.
Being outshot 28-7 after two periods, the Arizona Coyotes did well in limiting the high-danger stuff for the Colorado Avalanche for most of Wednesday’s game. They were hanging in there, needing to generate offense in a scoreless game. Then the dam burst.
Colorado got three goals in a span of one minute and 23 seconds in the third period with less than ten minutes remaining. Arizona went from holding its own to being blown out and shut out.
The Avs won 3-0.
In a spurt of deja vu, goaltender Darcy Kuemper stood tall for the Coyotes as the team was being outshot big a wide margin; Kuemper did the same in Arizona’s four-game series victory over the Nashville Predators. But unlike some of the games vs. Nashville, the Coyotes didn’t eventually flip the tide and have an offensive outburst. Colorado did that instead.
Kuemper made 37 saves as Arizona was outshot 40-14. Philipp Grubauer started in goal for Colorado and stopped all 14 shots he faced.
Head coach Rick Tocchet was displeased with the team’s performance.
“Darcy Kuemper, first star again,” Tocchet said. “You’ve got to be able to make a five-foot pass and support it. it starts with that. The scary thing is it’s a 0-0 hockey game, we get a power play, and the power play stinks. And then you guys saw what happened. So it’s Darcy, Darcy, Darcy. And that’s it.”
Tocchet was referring to a late power play the Coyotes had with less than 12 minutes to go in the third period. Arizona failed to score.
“I’m just disappointed in the club because it’s a big opportunity and we had a terrible practice yesterday,” Tocchet said. “I really don’t want to get into it anymore. The players know how I feel. You guys saw it. Darcy Kuemper kept us in. That’s basically it.”
Tocchet’s tone was markedly different than his players’ after the game.
“It might be a little bit too many shots, but at the same time, like Derek [Stepan] said, I kind of felt like we were keeping them on the outside and they were coming from the blue line,” captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “[Kuemper’s] a good goalie and he’s going to stop if he sees the puck. But at the same time, we’ve got to create more. I thought we backed off a little bit too much and maybe gave them a little bit too much respect for them, I felt like.”
A questionable intereference call to Derek Stepan gave the Avs a late power play. They scored.
“I think those refs have a really difficult job,” Stepan said. “I like Dan [O’Rourke]. I think he’s a good veteran ref. This is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s a puck that’s dumped in the corner. I don’t really see much danger there to make a call like that in the third period. But like I said, I like Dan. I don’t want to beat him up. Because like I said, it’s a tough job, but I personally in that case I really disagree with that call in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”
Just 10 seconds after that goal, they got another. And then another shortly thereafter.
Nazem Kadri, J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen scored for Colorado. Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon got his first point of the series, a primary assist on Rantanen’s tally. Kadri and defenseman Erik Johnson combined for 15 shots on goal.
“High-danger” scoring chances were 8-3 in favor of Colorado, according to Natural Stat Trick. Through the first two periods, that number was only 4-2.
“I agree with O’ and Step’ that we did a good job the first two periods with their rushes and keeping them on the outside, even though they had a lot of shots, I feel like the dangerous chances, Kuemps was there for us as he’s been all year,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.
“We’ve got to do a better job on the special teams next game and just a few adjustments and I think we’ll have a better game.”
Colorado takes a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-seven series.
“They won their one game, you’ve got to win four,” Tocchet said. “If you’re nervous tonight or anxiety and didn’t have it tonight, find a way to have it two days from now. That’s really the message. You’ve got to put your big boy pants on. This is a Colorado team that is a powerhouse team and you’ve got to be able to have details in your game, but also you can’t back up.
“You’ve got to go. You’ve got to make a play. You’ve got to make a pass. You’ve got to win a battle. The scary thing is, like I said, it’s 0-0 with eight minutes, we get a power play, we could squeak that out but we just didn’t have the fortitude to do it.”