3 Takeaways From the Coyotes’ 5-3 Loss to the Los Angeles Kings

What a whirlwind.

The Arizona Coyotes returned from an eight-day break to host the Los Angeles Kings at Gila River Arena on Saturday, ultimately dropping a back-and-forth game 5-3 following a Kings third-period rally. That was only half the story, though, as the club announced during the second period that forward Ryan Dzingel and defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for forward Nick Ritchie and a conditional draft pick, kicking off what may be an active 2022 trade deadline for the team.

Related: Coyotes Trade Lyubushkin, Dzingel to Maple Leafs for Ritchie & Draft Pick

That’s a lot to unpack.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game, which, in a rare change of pace, commanded attention both on and off the ice.

Coyotes Can’t Hold Lead Against Kings

Arizona didn’t look like it had much rust to shake off after its extended break, as the Coyotes jumped out to leads of 1-0 and 3-1 before ultimately letting the game slip away in the third. Defenseman Anton Strålman opened the scoring 8:52 into the game after drawing Kings goalie Cal Petersen well out of his net before simply tossing the puck to the crease. It bounced off a few skates before trickling into the net, giving Arizona a brief — very brief — 1-0 lead.

Kings forward Adrian Kempe tied it just 12 seconds later, beating Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka on a one-timer. From there, Arizona used goals from Lawson Crouse and Clayton Keller to jump out to a 3-1 lead, and timely saves from Vejmelka seemed to give Arizona the upper hand. He finished with 34 saves on 39 shots.

That’s where the Coyotes’ luck ran out.

Kings Defenseman Drew Doughty scored with 1:30 left in the second to cut Arizona’s lead in half, and Los Angeles used a three-goal third period to snag control of the game en route to the win. Doughty and Kempe both scored twice, while the Coyotes’ special teams suffered yet again, allowing LA to go 2-for-4 with the man advantage.

“I think like any game, there’s ebbs and flows, and you’re going to face adversity in every game, and I think it’s something where you kind of get antsy with the puck sometimes if you’re focused on the outcome,” forward Barrett Hayton said. “I think we have to learn from that, and focus on the process throughout the game.”

The Coyotes were 0-for-3 on the power play.

Dzingel/Lyubushkin/Ritchie Trade Grabs Headlines

Though there was plenty of action during the well-attended game on Saturday, news of the trade came trickling in during the second period, immediately causing a stir.

Dzingel had been a vocal presence in Arizona’s locker room throughout the season, and the 29-year-old has seven points in 26 games in the desert this season. His best season came in 2018-19, when he posted 56 points with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets, and will likely have a much bigger impact with the Maple Leafs in the secondary scoring department.

Lyubushkin, meanwhile, has been a steady, solid defenseman for the Coyotes all season. Head coach André Tourigny praised the defenseman’s work ethic and attention to detail after the game, especially with how the 27-year-old Russian approached this season.

Ilya Lyubushkin Arizona Coyotes
Ilya Lyubushkin was traded to Toronto on Saturday. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tourigny said it’s “tough to see good guys like that leave,” but understood what needed to happen in order to acquire Ritchie, as well as future assets. Toronto’s winger had been on the club’s radar since this past offseason.

In terms of the draft pick, the Coyotes will choose either Toronto’s third-rounder in 2023 or second-rounder in 2025.

“To get something, you need to pay,” Tourigny said. “You don’t get Nick Ritchie and a conditional pick if you don’t give something good, so I think we got a young forward who’s big, he’s physical, he’s tough, he can fight, he can score. He proved it in the league before, he did it before, and we’re excited to get a guy with that much upside.”

Tourigny said he’s ready to get to work with Ritchie and understand where he will fit in the lineup. He’s 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, and a fresh start on a rebuilding club may be just what the doctor ordered for the former 10th-overall draft pick.

He also mentioned that, though he coached Ritchie’s brother, Brett, he had only previously scouted Nick. Even so, he’s coached against him, and is very familiar with the 26-year-old.

Nick Ritchie Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Ritchie was traded to the Coyotes on Saturday. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

“We like what he can bring to our team,” Tourigny said. “We want to be really competitive physically, we want to be tough, we want to be physical, but we want, as well, guys who can score goals, and Nick can do all of those.”

Ritchie’s arrival with the team is still being worked out, so it’s not yet clear when he will suit up for the Coyotes.

Barrett Hayton Returns From Injury

Hayton, who had been sidelined with a hand injury since Jan. 6, was held scoreless in his return, though he did record 13:10 time on ice. He’s generally one of the Coyotes’ best players in the face off dot, but went 5-for-13 in his return on Saturday.

Hayton said he felt good in his return, and had previously injured his hand after jamming it during a battle along the boards earlier this season. He was able to use his time recovering to help focus on his speed work and capacity training.

“I feel I really took advantage of the time in the weight room working with our strength guys, and focusing on a couple of things that I kind of picked out from the first section that I wanted to improve.” he said. “Obviously, you want to be out there playing every night, but I think I was able to use the time off, and build around some things.”

Tourigny was impressed with Hayton’s return, as well.

“He’s faster, I think his line with [Andrew Ladd] and Loui [Eriksson] had a few good looks,” Tourigny said. “As usual, he’s really competitive, and he’s a smart player, and kept his shifts short, so it was good to have him back.”

As for the Coyotes, Saturday’s trade was likely just the first of many trades general manager Bill Armstrong may make prior to the March 21 trade deadline, as he continues to rebuild the club from the ground up. As for the team, there’s no rest for the weary, as Arizona hosts the Dallas Stars at 5 pm MST.