Down by three in the third period against the St. Louis Blues, and still devastated by injuries, the Arizona Coyotes looked like they were coasting to yet another regulation loss.
Then Boko Imama scored.
Related: 3 Takeaways From the Coyotes’ 2-0 Loss to the Washington Capitals
Imama sparked a furious third-period rally with his first-career NHL goal, and Harri Sateri recovered from a shaky start to keep the Blues at bay for the second half of the game, but a stunning Coyotes rally fell just short, as the Coyotes lost to St. Louis 5-4 in overtime in front of 12,717 fans at Gila River Arena on Saturday.
The Coyotes lost their 10th straight game, though they have earned a point in two of their last three, which actually has interesting implications in 2022 NHL Entry Draft lottery positioning — more on that later.
Here’s what we learned on Saturday.
Imama Scores First NHL Goal in Second Career Game
Imama, who debuted just one night earlier, made the most of his limited time on ice, potting what turned out to be a pivotal goal in the third period despite playing just 5:42 over nine shifts in the entire game. The club responded following a second period in which it was dominated, outshooting St. Louis 11-3 in the final frame.
Imama’s goal ignited the crowd, and after Michael Carcone tied the game just 44 seconds later, St. Louis was forced to take a timeout to try and calm things down. Seven Coyotes have scored their first-career goals this season (Dysin Mayo, J.J. Moser, Matias Maccelli, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Nathan Smith, Imama and Carcone), the most-ever since the team relocated from Winnipeg.
“What makes it special for me for Boko is he had to, he’s a longtime minor-league player who made his way, fought through adversity and he made it,” Coach André Tourigny said after the game. “It’s a little bit like [Michael] Carcone, he’s been through the same thing. Dysin Mayo, his first game this year for me is the same. They are good examples.”
Moser and Smith also scored for the Coyotes, whose improbable rally came on the heels of four players that have a combined 67 NHL games to their names. Arizona is missing a plethora of everyday starters due to injury, including Dysin Mayo, Jay Beagle, Andrew Ladd, Nick Ritchie, Lawson Crouse, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, Jakob Chychrun, and Liam O’Brien.
Alas, the rally fell short after Justin Faulk scored to win just 30 seconds into overtime — his second goal of the game — and the Blues won for the 11th time in 12 games. Goalie Jordan Binnington started strong, but ultimately finished with just 16 saves on 20 shots.
“I’ve been on the other side of it, a three-goal lead going into the third, sometimes the team that has the lead gets a little loose,” Faulk said after the game. “It’s easy for the team that’s down to play. You’re down three, you just try to make plays, catch the team that’s leading a bit sleepy at times and just claw your way back into it.
“We just let our foot off the gas and there’s no reason and no excuse for it.”
Sateri Recovers After Shaky Start
The Blues’ offense hammered the Coyotes early, recording three goals in the first period, including two in the first six minutes. Logan Brown added another 2:56 into the second, but to his credit, Sateri settled down after that and held St. Louis scoreless for the remainder of regulation. He finished with 28 saves on 33 shots.
It’s been a rough start to Sateri’s Coyotes tenure, as he’s 0-2-1 in four appearances with a 6.32 goals-against average (GAA) and .822 save percentage (SV%), but he recovered nicely on Saturday to help Arizona stay within striking distance.
From there, the Coyotes did all they could.
“We have a tough time to create offense and we found a way, we found our rhythm, and we had more cohesion,” Tourigny said. “Our forecheck was good, a bit more pucks in the net. There’s a lot of positives, there’s a lot to build around that game.”
Draft Lottery Odds Take a Hit With the Overtime Loss
It’s not something anyone wants to dwell on, but it must be mentioned — heading into Saturday’s game, the Coyotes held the lowest point total in the entire league, just one behind the Canadiens. Though any true evidence of “tanking” is purely speculative in nature, the fact is the more Arizona loses, the better its odds are of earning the top overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, in which Shane Wright is the presumed No. 1 choice.
Saturday’s overtime loss threw a wrinkle in that scenario.
The Coyotes are now tied in overall points with the Canadiens, but with more regulation wins, actually jumped over the Habs in the standings. Montreal has lost eight straight, and has games remaining against the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and the Florida Panthers.
Arizona’s perseverance in what’s been a challenging end to an already-difficult season is impressive, and it will continue to battle until the very end. Tourigny and his staff have molded the club into a resilient group that’s physical and determined, and despite all of its injuries, clawed back into Saturday’s game — just one day removed from a strong outing against the Washington Capitals. That point was not lost on the coach after the game.
“They are coming here when we’re not in a good shape at that moment, and I think [we had] three good performances,” he said. “If you look, Carolina we’re alright, we’re better against Washington, we’re even better tonight, so we’re trending in the right direction.”
The Coyotes hit the road for games at Minnesota and Dallas before returning home for their final game of the season — and at Gila River Arena in Glendale — against the Nashville Predators next Friday.