The Arizona Coyotes returned home on Friday for a desert-dweller’s duel against the Vegas Golden Knights, and though Arizona started with a lot of momentum of the gate, a flurry of second-period goals from the Golden Knights proved to be too much to overcome en route to a 7-1 loss. Things were going relatively well for the Coyotes, even when trailing 2-1 midway through the second period, but a disastrous power-play effort ultimately doomed the team before the game was even halfway over.
Two Vegas goals in 55 seconds — one shorthanded tally and another just after the penalty expired — quickly escalated the game from manageable to out of reach.
Defense & Special Teams Were Dreadful
The Coyotes entered Friday’s game having killed off 11 straight opposing power plays, but the Golden Knights wasted little time breaking that streak. Barrett Hayton was called for a high stick with the game tied at one 12:29 into the opening frame — Arizona’s first penalty of the game — and Max Pacioretty wasted little time lighting the lamp to put Vegas up for good.
Arizona took just one penalty the rest of the game, a Christian Fischer cross check with 30 seconds left in the first period, and the team successfully killed it off after some penalty time carried over into the second. In what would typically be a good sign, the Coyotes stayed out of the box, and even drew two penalties in the second, but rather than convert, the team saw its one-goal deficit balloon to three alarmingly fast.
The Golden Knights scored once short handed, and three times at even strength, all within a span of 7:51 in the second. Vegas used a strong transition game, and took advantage of what felt like countless odd-man rushes, to head into the second intermission with a 6-1 lead, effectively snuffing out any momentum the Coyotes had gained.
“It’s frustrating,” said head coach André Tourigny. “We take a lot of pride in being a team that’s tough to play against. You need to earn it, you need to work to play against us, and when you give up odd man rushes, and you get beat up the ice, it’s not tough to play against.
“It’s free scoring chances, it’s free offense, it’s a dream for an offensive player to be able to create those chances.”
Turning to the defense, or lack thereof, Jakob Chychrun, Shayne Gostisbehere, Dysin Mayo, and Kyle Capobianco were a combined minus-9 on Friday. Given Vegas’ heavily skilled offense, the Coyotes needed a better performance from their blueliners.
“We got beat up the ice a ton tonight,” said center Travis Boyd. “I mean, look at all their goals. All their goals were off the rush, and they were beating us up the ice all night.
“We just can’t give up that many opportunities for them. Eventually they’re going to bury them, and you saw that tonight.”
Boyd Continued His Stellar Play
Boyd has been a bright spot for the team this season, and recorded his 50th NHL point on his sixth goal of the season after burying a beautiful feed from Clayton Keller in the first. The goal tied the game at one at the time, and ignited a spark, though the Coyotes were unable to capitalize on any of their subsequent opportunities throughout the game.
The 28-year-old’s previous season-high for goals was five, set in both the 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons. The former, spent with the Washington Capitals, has been his best offensive output to this point in his career, as he recorded 20 points in 53 games.
He now has nine points in 17 games with Arizona, and has been a bright spot for a team that has struggled to find the back of the net this season.
“Things have been going good personally for me,” Boyd said. “I think a lot of the credit goes to playing with good players. You get to play with Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller, and it’s obviously a treat.”
The Coyotes Took a Step Back From Previous Progress
Tourigny didn’t mince words following the game, lamenting that the team took a “step back” in a subpar effort against the Golden Knights on Friday. Despite its success in the face-off circle — the Coyotes were 33-for-58 in the dot — not much else went right.
Needless to say, Arizona has some soul searching to do before Monday’s game at Dallas.
“It just comes down to details and mentally being a bit sharper,” Boyd said. “Whether it’s puck management, or making sure we’re not getting beat up the ice, whatever the situation was tonight, we didn’t have it.”
To be fair, the Coyotes have responded well lately after facing adversity, but Tourigny said the team needs to show a much bigger sense of urgency while on the ice and not simply chase the puck around. Instead, they need to get back to their basics, and focus on the system that’s been implemented this year.
One thing’s for sure: It will likely be a tough practice on Saturday, but Friday’s game isn’t about to define a team that has preached resilience throughout the season.
“It’s just being human, as well. Lately we’re tougher to play against, we’re in every game, so we cannot expect to not trip at some point, and stumble, and have a tough night,” Tourigny said. “It’s not fun, but at the same time I don’t think we’ll let one game define who we are. We’re a proud team, we are tough to play against, we work hard, and that won’t change because of one game.”
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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.