Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings was an emotional one for the Arizona Coyotes. For one, the team kicked off its Hockey Fights Cancer night by honoring its Senior Director of Amateur Hockey Development, Matt Shott, who is battling cancer.
Just hours later, forward Clayton Keller completed a furious Coyotes rally 25 seconds into overtime, burying a wide-open rebound to give Arizona a 2-1 win over Detroit.
The win marked the team’s second in three games, and was the third straight contest in which it earned at least a point. Still, this one was especially meaningful for the club.
Keller Pots Game Winner, Honors Grandfather After Win
The game itself was relatively uneventful through two periods, considering the Red Wings held the Coyotes in check for most of the night. Detroit captain Dylan Larkin scored on a breakaway early in the first, but goalie Scott Wedgewood shut the team down after that, and finished the night with 33 saves.
Wedgewood’s persistent play opened the door for Ryan Dzingel’s equalizer with 6:29 remaining in the third period, and Keller did the rest in overtime.
It was a fitting end to the game, on a night when the team honored all of those who have been touched by cancer, and Keller remembered his grandfather after the game.
“It’s a tough night for me, I lost my grandpa to cancer,” an emotional Keller said. “I wouldn’t be here without him, so it’s definitely a special win.”
The night was emotional for the entire team, and for a while it seemed like Arizona may fall short despite an admirable effort against the still-rebuilding Red Wings. Dzingel, though, finally helped the Coyotes break through after redirecting Cam Dineen’s shot past Detroit goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. The assist was Dineen’s first career point.
The 29-year-old Dzingel scored his second goal in as many games after having not played since Oct. 25 due to injury. His return has helped the team to the most success it has had all season, having not lost in regulation since a 4-1 defeat to the Nashville Predators on Nov. 13.
Coach André Tourigny has been impressed with the team’s play lately.
“That’s one strength of our team: we have energy players,” Tourigny said. “I think being away for a little bit of time, and having time to heal, [Dzingel] came back really hungry, and has scored two big goals for us.”
Wedgewood Shines Yet Again
Wedgewood’s play has been nothing short of spectacular since being claimed off waivers from the New Jersey Devils, and the 29-year-old has posted a save percentage of .940 to this point with the Coyotes.
“He’s been unbelievable since he’s gotten here, keeping us in every single game,” Keller said. “It’s awesome to have him back, and he’s been playing amazing.”
Wedgewood withstood a scary moment in the second period after he took a slapshot from Robby Fabbri to the collar bone, and though he went down to the ice momentarily, he eventually got up and ultimately remained in the game.
He seemed no worse for the wear afterwards, having stopped all 26 shots he faced in the final two frames.
“You don’t want to get too high or too low at any point in your career, but, you know, I think the biggest key for me is just being consistent,” Wedgewood said. “I think I’ve found my game, and hit my spots, like I said before, and that builds my own confidence.”
Wedgewood — still donning his New Jersey pads and helmet, has certainly been a catalyst for the team since his arrival. Saturday night’s win, though, paled in comparison to the bigger issues out there.
“It’s one of the tougher nights in the league, for sure,” Wedgewood said. “You’re happy for guys, and obviously you feel for the whole game of hockey, and the world, tonight.”
Tourigny agreed, and truly helped put the win in perspective in the grand scheme of things.
“I think cancer has touched everybody,” he said. “My best friend has had cancer for a long time, and my mother-in-law had cancer. Everybody has somebody close to them. I think a night like that, you for sure think of those people, and you think of people who have touched you and have been important for you in your life. It’s good to get a win like that and have special thoughts for those people.”
On Deck for the Coyotes
There’s no rest for the weary, as the Coyotes face the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night, the second of back-to-back games for the club. The Kings have lost three straight games, including a 5-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
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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.