3 Takeaways From the Coyotes’ 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks

The Arizona Coyotes returned home to host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, and with former Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson returning to The Valley, along with forwards Brad Richardson, Conor Garland, and Luke Schenn, the game felt like a homecoming of sorts.

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The former Coyote players, along with the rest of the Canucks, made themselves right at home.

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Garland had two assists, Ekman-Larsson added one of his own, and the Canucks kept their wild card hopes alive with a 5-1 win over the Coyotes in front of an announced crowd of 9,679 at Gila River Arena on Thursday. Arizona is now 0-2 against Vancouver this season — both have been 5-1 defeats — with one more game in Vancouver on April 14.

Here’s what we learned in the Coyotes’ loss.

Goalie Harri Säteri Made His Coyotes Debut

Newly acquired goalie Harri Säteri made his debut in the desert, his first NHL game since Feb. 9, 2018 with the Florida Panthers. Then, he allowed three goals in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and he didn’t fare much better on Thursday. Though he has recently enjoyed success in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), posting a .926 save percentage (SV%) and 2.02 goals-allowed average (GAA), he had just nine NHL games to his name heading into Thursday’s matchup.

André Tourigny head coach of the Arizona Coyotes
André Tourigny saw plenty of good in Säteri’s game on Thursday, despite the final score. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He made timely saves when the Coyotes needed them, but there were simply too many grade-A chances for the Canucks. In the end, Säteri made 27 saves on 32 shots.

“Timing is a little off,” he said after the game. “It is a different game in the United States than in Europe. (The game) is a little bit quicker and things happen quicker.”

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The 32-year-old Finn was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2008, and has played at various levels, most recently earning a gold medal with Finland in the 2021-22 Olympics after going 5-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .962 save percentage.

All things considered, Coyotes coach André Tourigny liked what he saw out of the club’s newest arrival, especially after having just arrived in Arizona this week with one team practice under his belt.

“Well I liked the way he tracked the puck, I think he was good through traffic,” Tourigny said. “He was good in the first period, made key saves.

“In the second, we had kind of too many breakdowns, we didn’t give a lot but we gave quality.”

Nick Schmaltz scored the only goal of the game for the Coyotes, his 22nd of the season, which is a new career-high for the forward. Nick Ritchie appeared to make it a 3-2 game just moments later, but the goal was successfully challenged by Vancouver, as the play was offside. That was as close as the Coyotes would get to mounting a comeback.

Harri Sateri Grand Rapids Griffins
Harri Sateri, pictured here with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, made his first NHL start since 2018 on Thursday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

For his part, Säteri was very upbeat after the game after taking a moment to reflect on his long path back to the NHL.

“It felt awesome actually,” he said. “I was enjoying every minute, (but) I have had a little break, so it was not my best game but, overall felt pretty good.”

Ekman-Larsson, Garland Welcomed Back By Fans

The game marked the first trip back to Arizona for Ekman-Larsson and Garland since getting traded to the Vancouver Canucks last July, and the club was quick to celebrate their return with video-board greetings in the first period. Ekman-Larsson even stayed on the ice after warm-ups to sign autographs for fans.

Garland recorded two assists, and Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game he was happy to see the players get a win against their former club.

“I think it was good for all of them,” Boudreau said. “I was hoping (Conor) Garland would get one, he’s tried so hard and has been snake-bitten so much, that I was hoping he would get one.”

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Vancouver Canucks
Former Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson had an assist in his first game back in Arizona. (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ekman-Larsson finished with 20:36 time on ice, and was noticeably one of Vancouver’s most solid players on the night. He finished with one assist and two shots.

“OEL played well, he had an impact,” Tourigny said. “He was skating well, he was a good player, you could see him on the ice, he was one of their best players.”

The Coyotes Continue to Show Resilience

Considering the number of injuries that Arizona currently has — eight everyday roster players are currently sidelined — the Coyotes have done a remarkable job of remaining upbeat. They have forged their identity this season around tenacity, grit, and perseverance, a point that Tourigny touched on after Thursday’s game.

“I like our resilience,” he said. “You know, today at some point it was 5-1 in the third period, and you see the guys working that hard. I was proud of our leadership.”

It’s that never-say-die attitude that Tourigny said he expects to see from the Coyotes as the season marches to a close, with just 11 games left on the schedule. There’s no playoff push to be had, but you’d never know it by looking around the locker room.

They’re surprisingly loose, upbeat, and carry a true team mentality to the bitter end.

“Our guys never quit and keep pushing, [they] kept trying and blocking shots with that score at that time of the game,” Tourigny said. “That’s what we said from day one we want.

“We want to build throughout our season and we want to finish the season and say we made a step in the right direction the way we play.”

Arizona returns to action on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm MST.

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