The second period has not been kind to the Arizona Coyotes this season.
The Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche met on Saturday for the second time in as many days, and though Friday’s game was a back-and-forth affair in which Arizona ultimately fell 4-3 in a shootout, the Avs steamrolled the Coyotes 5-0 in the second game of their home-and-home series.
Mikko Rantanen and Nathan Mackinnon each had three-point nights, and that, combined with a litany of mental mistakes from Arizona, was simply too much for the Coyotes to overcome. Despite his recent hot streak, goalie Karel Vejmelka wasn’t able to steal this one, stopping 27 of the 32 shots he saw in the game.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s 5-0 loss.
The Second Period Proves Disastrous Again
Just how bad has the second period been for the Coyotes this season?
They have been outscored 48-15 in the middle frame this season — 29-7 at home — and those goals just seem to snowball at the worst possible time. The issues go all the way back to Arizona’s home opener against the St. Louis Blues, in which it allowed five goals in just over five minutes.
No matter how much has changed throughout the course of the season, though, the team’s second period woes have remained painfully consistent.
“I think we get hemmed in our zone, and it’s been an issue for us, especially here at home,” assistant coach Cory Stillman said after the game. “Our shifts, we’re not changing when we should, we’re putting the pucks in the wrong areas, and when you do that, you play in your zone, and the next thing you know there’s one shift that’s a minute, another shift that comes after that’s 1:30, and it’s all about momentum.”
Saturday’s game was strikingly similar to the aforementioned Blues game, as the Coyotes allowed three goals in a span of 3:41, essentially putting the game out of reach before it was barely even halfway over.
Given the shot disparity of 32-20 in the game, it’s clear there wasn’t much Arizona could do to climb back in it.
“We’ve got some long shifts in our own end in the second period, and I think that tires us out,” said defenseman Victor Söderström, who was playing in his 12th game this season for the Coyotes. “That’s where we’ve got to play more simple and get new guys on the ice.”
Penalties & Turnovers Were Too Much to Overcome
The Coyotes didn’t do themselves any favors in the first period, either, and it was yet another recurring theme that reared its ugly head: Penalties.
Heading into the game, the Avalanche owned the eighth-best power play, and capitalized on a first-period opportunity after both Alex Galchenyuk and Janis Moser took penalties a little over a minute apart. Though the Coyotes managed to kill off the first penalty, Colorado scored just one second after the two-man advantage expired, snuffing out any semblance of a strong start that the Coyotes had.
The Avalanche finished 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Coyotes were 0-for-2.
The Avalanche, who played Friday night without captain Gabriel Landeskog, were pushed to the brink against the Coyotes one night earlier, and Colorado made sure it controlled the narrative on Saturday.
“I think we poked the bear a little bit yesterday,” Stillman said. “They put their captain back in the lineup, it changes their lines, it puts guys in the positions that they should be in. Landeskog comes in, and their top line scores four goals tonight. That’s the difference.”
That difference put Arizona behind by four heading into the final frame, and Stillman, who is coaching alongside Phil Housley while head coach André Tourigny remains in COVID-19 protocol, said he didn’t want to sacrifice quality in the third period for the sake of trying to catch up.
“You have to continue to play the right way, and the same way,” Stillman said. “You can’t open up, you can’t expand the game, especially against a really good team. If you try to do something different, if you go out and want to do everything by yourselves, they’re going to score goals.”
Darcy Kuemper’s Return Shut Down the Coyotes
Arizona fans in attendance saw a familiar face between the pipes, as goalie Darcy Kuemper returned to The Valley for the first time since he was traded in July 2021, and was up to the task every time the Coyotes tried to threaten. It was vintage Kuemper, who recorded his first shutout since arriving in Denver.
Though his .905 save percentage (SV%) and 2.86 goals-allowed average (GAA) is higher than what Avalanche fans may have expected after the netminder was acquired to replace former starter Philipp Grubauer, Saturday’s performance was all-too familiar for Coyotes fans, who saw the 31-year-old Canadian post a record of 55-48-15 with 10 shutouts in his four seasons in the desert.
“He looked like he normally does,” Stillman said. “He’s going to win games, he makes the saves when he has to, we had a bit of a push there to try to break his shutout, and he made some timely saves.”
The team welcomed Kuemper with a graphic on the video board, and the crowd of 14,313 gave him a warm welcome back to Gila River Arena.
“He’s a good guy,” Söderström said. “It’s fun to see him again.”
The Coyotes are back in action in a Monday matinee against the Montreal Canadiens, whose 7-24-5 record currently puts them one point behind Arizona in the league standings. It’s Arizona’s last home game before starting a four-game roadtrip that will take them to New Jersey, New York (both the Islanders and Rangers), and Pittsburgh. The puck is scheduled to drop at 2 pm.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.