The Arizona Coyotes hosted the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night, a pre-Thanksgiving matchup against one of the league’s most high-powered offenses. Arizona had won three of its last four, and was riding a four-game point streak, while the Oilers arrived in The Valley fresh off a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Despite a valiant comeback effort, the Yotes fell short, and ultimately lost 5-3.
The Coyotes were shorthanded to begin with, considering eight rostered players were out due to either injuries or COVID-19 protocol. Anton Stralman did at least return to the lineup, but considering the Oilers’ vaunted offense, led by superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Arizona had little room for error.
The Coyotes fought until the very end, and nearly erased a three-goal deficit late in the third period, but ultimately could not overcome the Oilers’ explosive offense.
Scott Wedgewood Continues to Anchor The Team
Goalie Scott Wedgewood continued his impressive play, as he turned aside 39 of the Oilers’ 43 shots. He’s been a constant rock, and Wednesday was no different, as he stood on his head to keep the Coyotes within striking distance. He was the main reason that Arizona was only down by one after two periods, and has played that way since joining the team.
“Our goalies are playing great, obviously, and that’s what you need,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. “Every night they give us a chance to win, and the same today. I think Wedgie played great, he made some unreal saves in key moments of the game, and kept us in it.”
Ultimately Wedgewood’s effort wasn’t enough to earn him his fourth win of the season, but he did everything he could. Between him and Karel Vejmelka, Arizona has a tandem that has consistently given the team a chance to win — and even stolen a few games along the way.
Penalties, and the Penalty Kill, Are Major Issues
The Coyotes are the most penalized team in the NHL, and it came back to bite them on Wednesday.
Nursing a 1-0 lead in the first period, Arizona took three penalties, which is not ideal when you consider Edmonton’s power play is tops in the league at 38.2 percent. McDavid scored his 13th goal of the season (and later went on to score his 14th, into an empty net), and evened the score. It was clear after his goal — which he scored with just over five minutes left in the first period — the Oilers found their footing, and went on to dominate the next 30 minutes of play.
Draisaitl chipped in two goals and two assists as well, increasing his league-leading goal count to 20, with his second goal coming on — you guessed it — the power play. That one made it 4-1 and stood as the game-winner after Arizona mounted its rally.
“Obviously you’ve got some real top-of-the world talent there,” said forward Travis Boyd, who started the Coyotes’ third-period rally with his fourth goal of the season. “You put them in opportunities like power plays, and it’s only a matter of time before they find the back of the net.”
The Coyotes’ three first-period penalties proved too costly, as the Oilers captured nearly all the momentum, and never trailed again.
“I think we played well, and then the best power play in the league, they have a really good offense, and we gave them a chance to get going,” said head coach André Tourigny. “Those good players, when they start to feel it in being comfortable and get some momentum, they’re tough to stop, and that’s what happened from there. Momentum shifted, and it was tough for us to get it back.”
The Oilers simply have too much talent for Arizona to play shorthanded against for almost half a period, and the penalty trend is one that Arizona needs to buck sooner rather than later.
Sometimes You Just Need to Tip Your Cap to McDavid, Draisaitl
Edmonton’s offense is the most potent in the league, and when you look at its top line with both McDavid and Draisaitl, a short-handed Coyotes team didn’t match up well on paper. They capitalized on the Oilers’ sluggish start, as Clayton Keller took a perfect feed from Phil Kessel and finished with a nice backhand to give Arizona a 1-0 lead just 3:45 in the first, but once the penalty bug kicked in, there was no turning back.
Tourigny knew what was coming, because the superstars’ talent is impossible to contain. The plan was to make life as difficult as possible, so he matched forward Barrett Hayton with them, and he, for the most part, did a good job. Hayton finished the night with 18:49 time on ice, and went 12-of-13 in the faceoff circle.
“I was not hoping for him to stop them, but to slow them down, and at 5-on-5 we didn’t do bad,” Tourigny said. “Again, they hit us with their power play, but I think Barrett did a good job to fight.”
Stralman was a bit more direct when asked how the Coyotes approached Edmonton’s dynamic duo on Wednesday.
“What can you do, right?” he responded. “It’s tough, but you have to play a strong team game. Like I was talking about a little bit, we lost it there for a good, I would say, 30 minutes of the game.”
Even with all of the adversity, Arizona clawed back by scoring two goals in under two minutes. Though the Coyotes weren’t able to complete the comeback, Tourigny was proud of the effort put forth.
“I like the fight in our guys,” he said. “I never thought once this year I’d have to address the effort of our guys or whatever, and again, tonight, they fought hard, and they battled, so I’m proud of them.”
The Coyotes host the Stars on Saturday before hitting the road for games against the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild. Dallas has won two straight, including a win Tuesday over the Oilers, and hosts the Colorado Avalanche on Friday before wrapping up back-to-back games in the desert.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.