3 Takeaways From the Coyotes’ 3-2 Loss to the Kings

Just days after after the Arizona Coyotes lost 5-3 at home to the Los Angeles Kings, the two faced off again at Gila River Arena, and though the club’s approach was different, the end result was a familiar one.

Not that they didn’t make it interesting.

Related: Coyotes Corner: Team Returns To Action After 8-Day Break

The Coyotes played a much more disciplined game, but were unable to respond to a late Kings goal, ultimately falling 3-2 in Glendale. There was plenty of good to take away from the loss, however, considering how well Arizona’s top line has played lately, not to mention a strong performance in net (again).

Here’s what we learned in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Kings.

Keller-Boyd-Schmaltz Continues to Click

The Coyotes have found a productive top line as of late, and the combination of Clayton Keller, Travis Boyd, and Nick Schmaltz was again the team’s best offensive weapon. After a first period stalemate, Keller opened the scoring with his 21st goal of the season, 6:25 into the second, after burying a nice 2-on-1 feed from Schmaltz.

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Keller has 15 points in his last 12 games, and Schmaltz has 16 points over his last 15, leading the way for the Coyotes while producing some of the best offense of the season for the club. Keller has also scored in four straight games, which is a career high for the 23-year-old.

“Ever since Schmaltzy got traded here I thought we’ve had chemistry,” Keller said. “I think we think the game alike. I’m a lefty, he’s a righty, so kind of just a perfect scenario.”

The lead was short-lived, however, as Blake Lizotte notched the equalizer just 18 seconds later, which has been somewhat of a recurring theme this season. The Coyotes have allowed goals immediately following one of their own multiple times this season, and need to find a way to hold the momentum and find a different way to push back.

“It obviously sucks that they scored right after, it kind of kills the momentum right away,” Schmaltz said. “I think whatever line is kind of going out next, you’ve got to be aware of that, and you know, they’re going to push back, so you try to simplify that shift, and try to keep that momentum going.”

The Kings then took a 2-1 lead thanks to a Viktor Arvidsson, who buried a tic-tac-goal past goalie Scott Wedgewood after Vladislav Kolyachonok turned the puck over in the defensive zone. The rookie defenseman quickly made up for the error, though, by assisting on Barrett Hayton’s equalizer with just under seven minutes left in the second.

Clayton Keller Arizona Coyotes
Clayton Keller scored his 21st goal of the season on Wednesday. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Coyotes coach André Tourigny said Kolyachonok’s mistake is something all NHL rookies tend to go through, and was pleased with how he responded following the goal, earning his first-career NHL point.

“That’s part of the learning curve to be a young guy in the NHL,” Tourigny said. “You will make mistakes at some point, and I think he has a tendency to hold onto the puck a little bit too long and tonight he paid for it, so he will learn from it.”

Coyotes’ Attack More Effective, But Still Slowed by the Kings

The Coyotes’ strategy on Wednesday differed slightly from the previous matchup between the two, as they tried to find an effective way to cut through the neutral zone and create scoring opportunities. Los Angeles’ 1-3-1 defense made it difficult on Arizona’s playmakers, who were outshot 35-19 by the Kings.

Schmaltz, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday, lamented the effectiveness of the Kings’ trap after the game.

“It’s tough to gain possession through the neutral zone when they’re sitting back like that, so I thought we did a little better job tonight,” Schmaltz said. “It’s tough to come with speed, because they just kind of stand there and clog the neutral zone.”

Nick Schmaltz Arizona Coyotes
Nick Schmaltz his 16 points in his last 15 games. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Kings have won three straight games, and five of their last six, and the Coyotes hung with them until the very end.

“We had some adjustments, I think we did a good job defensively,” Tourigny said. “Offensively, there was not a lot of space. L.A. played well, tough to get in their slot, it’s tough to have quality scoring chances, but I think we got better offensively in the third period.”

Arizona is 1-2-0 against the Kings this season.

Wedgewood Continues Stellar Play

Wedgewood had a stellar game in net yet again, as he turned aside 32 of the Kings’ 35 shots on goal. The 29-year-old had won his previous two starts, against the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, and continued to see the puck well on Wednesday, posting a .914 save percentage (SV%).

That follows-up his previous three starts, against the Boston Bruins, Avalanche, and Stars, where he posted save percentages of .946, .950, and .970, respectively.

“Wedgie played awesome tonight,” Keller said. “He made a lot of key saves for us, and kept us in the game.”

Wedgewood has certainly helped stabilize the Coyotes’ goaltending situation, and after Carter Hutton was traded to the Maple Leafs earlier this week, it’s clear both he and Karel Vejmelka will be Arizona’s tandem for the rest of the season.

The Coyotes return to the ice on Friday against the Vegas Golden Knights, who have lost three of their last four games, though they did defeat the Sharks 4-1 on Sunday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30.


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