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Coyotes held scoreless again, unable to finish against Ducks

Arizona Coyotes left wing Lawson Crouse (67) checks Anaheim Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm in the second period during an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

In search of some rhythm offensively, the Arizona Coyotes faced a tall task in achieving that with the Anaheim Ducks in town on Tuesday.

Their goaltender John Gibson has been one of the league’s best at the start of the season, recently earning the NHL’s Third Star of the Week.

Gibson didn’t prove to be that much of an X-factor, though, because while the Coyotes were held scoreless and lost 1-0, Arizona ultimately didn’t challenge Gibson enough consistently to really test him.

Head coach Rick Tocchet assessed the offensive imbalance postgame.

“Had some chances,” he said. “We missed the net, had a couple of wide-open chances. Still gotta get in front of the net and we still gotta get some hard shots through. Consistently, we got some shots there (but) when they did get through we didn’t have anybody (there and) when we did have people there, we weren’t getting ’em through.”

The outcome was surprising considering the game script. Arizona outshot Anaheim 31-24 and was the better side.

“We had the puck a lot tonight but you gotta find a way to score,” Tocchet said. “That’s the bottom line. We need some guys to score some goals for us.”

It’s an unfortunate turn especially when looking at how the game’s lone goal came about.

Arizona in the first period was controlling the game after escaping disaster. Defenseman Jordan Gross, making his season debut, lost the puck on the blue line during his first shift. That was bad, but it was even worse that he left a breakaway for Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. The Coyote killer entered the night with 65 points in 65 career games against Arizona and had a 1-on-1 with the Coyotes’ Darcy Kuemper. Fortune struck for the Coyotes, however, when Getzlaf fanned on his shot.

After a few minutes of play, a Coyotes shift in the offensive zone led by forward Conor Garland got a bit of offensive juice finally flowing for Arizona.

But shortly following that sequence, Coyotes forward Drake Cagguila turned the puck over by his own net during a breakout attempt. The puck fell to the Ducks’ Danton Heinen, who had plenty of time to settle the puck and get a shot off in a prime position. Worst of all, Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun found himself between the puck and his net, setting a screen on his own goaltender and leaving Kuemper no chance to stop the first goal of the game.

That costly turnover wound up being the difference and Caggiula went on to miss the best chance of the night for either side as well.

In the second period, Caggiula received a pass with a good chunk of Gibson’s net open and no one around him but sent it over.

From then on, it was all Coyotes. That included a stretch where the Coyotes held the puck in Anaheim’s zone for well over a minute, with the Ducks on the ice having shift times nearing three minutes.

The only thing that didn’t come was a goal, as Arizona outshot Anaheim 14-2 in the second period.

The final 20 minutes saw little marquee chances or changes in momentum.

Arizona’s best opportunity would come with a little over two minutes left when Garland worked hard behind Anaheim’s net and got the puck to the front, where Coyotes forward Nick Schmaltz tried to flick in the puck at a difficult angle. Schmaltz nearly pulled it off, with a save by Gibson pushing the puck off the post.

The Coyotes pulled Kuemper with roughly 90 seconds to go and nothing came of it except the final buzzer.

The Coyotes had three power plays and failed to threaten Gibson that much during any of those six minutes.

“Just too slow,” Tocchet said of the power play. “Guys are playing too slow out there. We’re not attacking. We might have to change that up a little bit.”

Kuemper had 23 saves for Arizona and was the game’s second star.

The defeat marks six consecutive periods and two straight games the Coyotes have failed to score in.

The Coyotes were not an absolute force on Tuesday, but they were the better team, and they gave away the game-winning goal. For that type of defeat to come after Sunday’s 1-0 loss in which the Vegas Golden Knights stole a win with under a minute left has led to some obvious frustration.

“That’s two games in a row now,” forward Lawson Crouse said. “We’re mad. Feel bad for Darcy. He’s playing a great game for us, and we’ve just gotta get on the board somehow.”

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