The Arizona Coyotes limped home following a two-game Canadian roadtrip in which they were outscored 16-2, and had none other than the first-place Carolina Hurricanes waiting for them in the desert.
Though the end result was a familiar one, Monday’s loss managed to feel a little different than the previous defeats.
Kyle Capobianco recorded two assists, Nathan Smith notched his first-career NHL point, and Karel Vejmelka made 46 saves in a 5-3 loss on Monday in front of 8,496 fans in Glendale. Nino Niederreiter and Max Domi recorded both a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes, who snapped a two-game losing streak with the win.
Here’s what we learned in the loss.
Capobianco leads the way for Unsung heroes
Capobianco hasn’t found the scoresheet much this season, as he had just five points on two goals and three assists in 38 games heading into Monday. The 24-year-old defenseman made all the right moves, though, assisting on two late goals in the second period to help Arizona claw back into it.
Those goals, meanwhile, were scored by a pair of Coyotes that also haven’t found the scoresheet much this season — Loui Eriksson and Alex Galchenyuk, who had just seven goals between the two of them prior to Monday night.
The goals cut Carolina’s three-goal lead down to one at the time, giving the Coyotes a shot at a comeback heading into the final period. It was the first time Capobianco has found the scoresheet since recording an assist against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 27, 2021.
“I think I’m just trying to play simpler and kind of move and join the rush and try to make some plays,” he said after the game.
The Hurricanes brought pressure early and often, finishing Monday’s game with 51 shots, the most Arizona has allowed all season. Vejmelka bounced back nicely after a few rough outings, and the Coyotes needed a stellar performance considering how active Carolina’s defensemen are in the play.
The Hurricanes’ blue line accounted for 18 of the team’s 51 shots in the game.
“I like the way they play, but we knew there would be a lot of shots tonight,” head coach André Tourigny said. “I really liked the way we played in front of [Vejmelka]. We boxed out pretty good, they didn’t have a lot of good second opportunities on rebounds. They had a few, but they were not high, high, quality, so I think we did a pretty good job in front of him.”
The Coyotes have 13 players that will either be unrestricted or restricted free agents at the end of the season, and Capobianco is one of them (RFA). He said following Monday’s game he’s well aware of the implications of his play through the team’s remaining games, and how he may very well be playing for a spot on next year’s roster.
“It’s the NHL, it’s the best league in the world,” Capobianco said. “You want to play, you want to fight to be in it and prove that you have a spot next year, so it’s not difficult trying to get up for games, because you’re just lucky to be here.”
Smith Records First Career NHL Point
Playing in just his fourth career NHL game, Smith recorded his first NHL point, notching the primary assist on Nick Ritchie’s second-period goal. The Minnesota State product joined the club immediately following an appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four, and was effective all over the ice on Monday.
He finished the game with with 16:21 of ice time, including 3:11 on the power play, and was 5-for-11 on face offs. Since his arrival in the desert last week, the 23-year-old has consistently preached about following the process and working hard on his own game, and Monday’s arrival on the scoresheet was the payoff.
“Through these first four games it’s definitely been a learning curve for me, but every game I’ve just tried to get a little bit better, and focus in on the details, and get better defensively, and just high positioning and all of that in D-zone,” Smith said. “It feels good to get the first point. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but I’m just trying to make small improvements every day.”
That effort has not gone unnoticed.
“One thing since he has been here is he works hard,” Tourigny said. “He’s a competitive player, and he has good skill. Like every young player, he needs to learn a lot of the inside of the game more than the skill side, just playing the game the right way.
“But he has the will to do it, and the game has to slow down for him at some point, but he’s doing a good job.”
Doan, Tourigny to lead Team Canada in World Championship
Hockey Canada announced the management group and coaching staff for the 2022 IIHF World Championship, and Coyotes legend Shane Doan was named general manager, while Tourigny will be an assistant under head coach Claude Julien.
Doan is no stranger to Canada’s international team, having previously served as GM at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and won a gold medal as assistant GM at the 2021 IIHF World Championship. He represented Team Canada six times as a player as well, earning two gold medals and three silver medals.
Tourigny is just as experienced, having previously served as head coach of Canada’s National Junior team, ultimately winning silver at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. He’s long been developing some of Canada’s top hockey talent, and wasted little time accepting the position when Doan made the call.
“It’s huge for me,” Tourigny said. “Hockey is our national sport in Canada, and to have a chance to represent your country in your national sport, I think it means a lot.”
Arizona is back in action on Wednesday, taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in the second game of a four-game homestand in Glendale. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm MST.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.