During the Arizona Coyotes’ current streak of eight wins in their last 11 games (8-1-2), coach Dave Tippett told reporters his team is finding ways to win. In the past, the Coyotes tended to be so inept that they usually found ways to lose on a regular basis.
Now, there is a reversal of fortune. If there is any solace coming out of a 4-3, come-from-behind, overtime victory Tuesday night over the Edmonton Oilers before 11,391 in the Gila River Arena, this is the effort that supported Tippett’s latest theory.
Coming out lethargic and lackluster in the opening period of play, the Coyotes seemed to be skating in sand and fell behind 3-1 early in the final period. Two power-play goals from Max Domi, who ended the night with his first career NHL hat trick, within a span of 3:01 tied this one, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s power-play goal with 9 seconds left in overtime carried the win.
If the Coyotes found a way to pull this out, the special teams helped form the result. Coming into the contest, the Coyotes were 19th in the league in power-play goals and scoring at an 18.0 percentage clip with the man advantage. The three power-play goals tied a season mark in this area established against the Kings on Dec. 26.
“The power plays made a huge difference,” said captain Shane Doan. “Plus, (goalie Louis Domingue) held the fort and we managed the two on the power play to tie it up. That was huge.”
Also huge was the resiliency the Coyotes displayed. Looking anything but a team on one of the hottest streaks currently in the NHL, they came out flat and, as Tippett likes to say, “chased the game.” The speed and power so clearly demonstrated in their last contest, a 4-0 win over Nashville last Saturday, was absent. So was the strong play in front of Domingue.
On the Oilers’ first goal, Ekman-Larsson and Tobias Rieder collided in front of Domingue and that left the crease area wide open. The result was a relatively easy goal for Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers’ second goal, a wrist shot from the right-off circle by defenseman Justin Schultz, deflected off of Domingue’s left shoulder and into the net. That gave Edmonton a 2-0 lead at the time and the Coyotes’ acumen and discipline suddenly disappeared.
Then, Domi’s three goals, the last one at 6:54 of the final period, forced overtime.
“With the way we came back, we showed good character,” Domi said afterward. “No, I’m not thinking about scoring. The team is more important. At this point, I’m not pressing and know if I get a good shot, it has a chance to go in.”
Domi’s goals were his first since he scored twice at Buffalo on Dec. 4. That broke a streak of 15 games without lighting the red lamp. Before the two against the Sabres, Domi last scored on Nov. 12 at home against Edmonton.
The pair of Domi and Ekman-Larsson accounted for seven points and their effort, plus clicking on the power play, brought some comfort. Ekman-Larsson set a career mark for most points in a game, four, while his six winning goals tops all NHL defensemen.
Had the lethargy and sluggishness which characterized the opening 20 minutes continued, Tippett and his warriors would have had a difficult time cracking a smile.
“The young guys carried us through (against the Oilers),” Tippett said. “We like to come out and dictate the pace of the game. We didn’t win enough battles to create chances.”
Then again, power-play success formed the catalyst for the win. At the same time, this represents another way to win, and successful teams find ways to win.
An Important Milestone
The game marked Tippett’s 500th as coach of the Phoenix/Arizona franchise. Since the 2002-03 season, Tippett has 503 wins and places him fourth among active coaches. That includes time spent coaching the Dallas Stars.
Joel Quenneville (544), Mike Babcock (543) and Barry Trotz (516) are ahead of Tippett in wins.
The victory over the Oilers extended a streak of at least one point in 21 straight games against Edmonton. Under Tippett, the Coyotes are 22-2-4 against the Oilers.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.