The Arizona Coyotes had not played since Dec. 17, so a little rust was expected Tuesday night against a San Jose Sharks team that had not played since Dec. 16. What followed, however, was a wild affair that featured 73 shots, 14 goals, 22 takeaways, and 13 giveaways.
OK, fine. A lot of rust.
Arizona played well for long stretches on Tuesday, and clawed back into the game time and time again before ultimately losing 8-7 in a shootout. They seemingly broke through after tying the game with just over one minute left in the third period, finally evening the score after falling behind by two goals four — yes, four — different times.
Purely from an offensive perspective, the Coyotes have a lot to be pleased about. Their previously silent offense has now scored 13 goals in its last two games, three of which have come on the power play. That effort alone has earned them at least one point in back-to-back games, and there’s even more for fans to take solace in, even after Tuesday’s shootout loss.
JJ Moser is Off And Running
Defenseman Janis Jerome “JJ” Moser was playing in just his third NHL game, but the 21-year-old Switzerland native looked right at home on the blue line Tuesday against the Sharks. He scored twice, his first two NHL goals, and finished the game with a plus-2 rating in 22:15 time on ice. He’s now plus-3 in three games with the Coyotes.
Moser, who became the fifth-youngest defenseman in Coyotes history to record a multiple-goal game at 21 years and 205 days old, consistently displayed a veteran-like savviness, particularly on his second goal of the game, which was a seeing-eye shot to cut the Sharks’ lead to one goal.
Moser’s performance comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching the rookie with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Tucson Roadrunners this season, considering he ranks third on the team with 12 points in 18 games. He enjoyed a strong performance during the Coyotes’ rookie camp this past summer, and has impressed during his three-game stint to this point.
Fellow rookie defenseman Dysin Mayo, who’s spent 25 games with the Coyotes this season, recorded his first career NHL assist on Tuesday, his second career point. Loui Eriksson finished with one point, an assist on Moser’s second-period goal, which was his 600th career point.
Moser and Mayo had plenty of help from their veteran counterparts, too. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded one goal and one assist, while forwards Lawson Crouse (2 goals, 2 assists), Phil Kessel (4 assists), and Johan Larsson (3 assists) each enjoyed multi-point games.
Special Teams Were Refreshingly Dominant
The Coyotes’ 12.5 percent power play, which was dead-last in the league heading into Tuesday’s tilt against the Sharks, has been stunningly effective over the past two games after going 3-for-7 in games against Anaheim and San Jose. Moreover, Arizona’s penalty kill, ranked 31st in the league prior to Tuesday’s game, killed off all three of the Sharks’ power plays.
Perhaps most refreshing for the Coyotes, though, was that they were able to cash in when given a golden power-play opportunity, something that hasn’t happened much this season. Gostisbehere had just cut San Jose’s lead to one goal with a little over two minutes left when Brent Burns was whistled for cross-checking at 17:32, and as if on cue, Andrew Ladd was able to pop a rebound up and over Sharks goalie James Reimer.
It was the equalizer, it came with 1:29 left in the period, and it forced overtime in a game that seemed lost a number of times throughout the night.
Arizona’s penalty kill was at its best in overtime after it killed off a Clayton Keller hooking penalty early in the extra frame. Though the Coyotes ultimately fell in the shootout, their special teams play was an encouraging sign in the high-scoring affair.
The Coyotes Just Keep Coming
It’s been written about more than once this season, but the hard-luck Coyotes simply refuse to quit. The Coyotes never led on Tuesday, and trailed by scores of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3, 5-4, 6-4, 6-5, 7-5, and 7-6 before ultimately tying the game at seven late in the third.
That is a whole lot of come-from-behind hockey against the 16-14-1 Sharks, and the kicker is that the Coyotes actually outshot San Jose handily, 46-27. They also fared remarkably well in the face off circle, winning 57 percent of the draws in the game.
Arizona is now off until a home date against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 2, so the team has another extended break before hitting the ice again. The Coyotes are 0-2-0 against the Stars this season, but if they can continue to build off the recent momentum created on offense, can put themselves in a position to beat the 15-12-2 Stars.
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.