Some may think the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome is solely reserved for the pen of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson.
In the course of two consecutive games, the Arizona Coyotes proved that label could easily transfer to their hockey world.
After getting blown-out by the St. Louis Blues at home Tuesday night by six goals, the Coyotes turned their fortunes completely around and soundly defeated the visiting Winnipeg Jets 4-1, before another sparse crowd of 11,390 at the Gila River Arena Thursday night.
Energized by power play goals from Mikkel Boedker and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in just over the first three minutes of the game, the Coyotes showed the kind of their hockey personality rarely displayed this season. The triumph was the third, three-goal margin of victory in their last five wins, and seemed to exorcised some recent demons.
Afterward, coach Dave Tippett said that his team now needs to “back it up night after night.” Given the Coyotes inconstant season, that may be easier said than done.
For the Coyotes, that may be thinking outside the box but the Winnipeg triumph, according to one significant participant, may be larger than than the sum of its parts.
“This is such a mental game, such a fickle game,” said Arizona captain Shane Doan, who chipped in with one goal and two assists. “The early goals were big because it allow us to build momentum. Once you’re able to build a lead, you have to keep that attitude and momentum going at a high level.”
With Boedker and Doan each picking up three points, the Coyotes were able to build some distance and forge a comfortable edge. For Doan, this was his second, third-point game of the season and the other was at Washington on Nov. 2. As well, Boedker recorded his second, three point game and his first since the Coyotes’ third game of the season at home against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 15.
special teams carried play
Catalyst for the win was play of the special teams.
With three goals on four attempts with the man-advantage, the Coyotes continued to be one of the stronger teams in the league in this category. Coming into the Winnipeg game, Arizona was seventh in the NHL and built a drive with those two power play goals early in the game.
More encouraging was their ability to kill penalties. Dead last in the league defending when short-handed, the Coyotes killed two, two-man Winnipeg advantages late in the first period and survived a double minor to Doan mid-way through the final period.
Overall, the Jets were 0-for-5 on the power play five-on-four, and and 0-2 with the two-man advantage. Conversely, the Coyotes were three-for-four in five-on-four power play opportunities.
In recording his seventh win of the season, goalie Mike Smith (now 7-16-2) stopped 34 of 35 Winnipeg shots and the Jets only goal came from Mathieu Perreault at 8:55 of the final period on a delayed penalty call.
“Playing consistently is what we need to figure out,” said Smith, who made his third straight start. “I thought the big difference between the St. Louis game and (the Winnipeg game) was we let (the Blues) push us around. We talked about taking players to the outside and the defense did that. They let me see the puck and and that was huge.”
The bottom line was the Coyotes’ ability to compete at a higher level than in previous contests. The defense stood Winnipeg skaters up at the blue line, and the Coyotes demonstrated a strong penchant to move the puck sharply.
Now, as Tippett pointed out, the key for this team to find wins to play at this higher level on a consistent basis. Plus, the early lead drove the team’s overall confidence.
“When you play with the lead, you can be a better team,” said Tippett. “The attention to detail and the competitive levels were higher (against Winnipeg), and we received a better result.”
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