One thing is clear this season for the Arizona Coyotes. They definitely keep games interesting.
Monday night was the wildest of the season, a night that saw the Coyotes rally from a three-goal deficit with four unanswered goals, after three fights in the first period and several miscues in the defensive zone in the first 20 minutes. What started as perhaps the Coyotes’ worst performance ended up a memorable and much-needed 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks at Gila River Arena.
Christian Dvorak scored two goals, including the go-ahead goal on a power play early in the third period, and the Coyotes’ defense held firm for the final 16:08 to leave the ice a happy bunch.
Dvorak, Derick Brassard and Jakob Chychrun scored for the Coyotes (8-7-3) in the second period. Chychrun assisted on Dvorak’s second goal and Clayton Keller had two assists as the Coyotes got their second win in the past six games.
All of the Arizona scoring came after three unanswered goals from Jakob Silfverberg, Max Jones and Cam Fowler for the Ducks, and 18 of 24 Coyotes penalty minutes served for roughing, fighting or cross-checking.
“It’s a heck of a response after our start, but our start is just not good enough,” Chychrun said. “I think our second period got us back into it and a really good third period, too. That was really two big points that we were able to claw back and take from them.”
Dvorak got things started when he was hooked on a shorthanded breakaway, drawing a penalty shot. He converted it to make the score 3-1.
Brassard got his second goal in as many games when he scored off a pass from Conor Garland at 10:21 of the second. With momentum squarely on the Coyotes’ side after a first period to forget, Chychrun tied the score at 3 at 12:02 when he skated ahead of a pack and managed to sneak the puck past Ducks goalie John Gibson as he slid feet-first into the net.
The goal was reviewed and upheld.
In the third period, Chychrun shot from the point on an early power play, and Dvorak was in front of the net for a deflection and goal.
Darcy Kuemper overcame a bumpy first period, in which he was handed four penalty minutes for a roughing double minor after he delivered a blow to Jones in the crease following Jones’ goal. Kuemper held Anaheim (6-10-3) scoreless for most of the final two periods, stopping 25 shots for the game.
In a first period filled with stoppages in play, Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse was assessed nine penalty minutes, five for fighting with the Ducks’ Derek Grant. The Coyotes’ John Hayden also got five for fighting.
“In the first period we were god-awful. It was terrible hockey. Probably our worst period in a long time,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said before giving some credit to Crouse and Hayden for giving the team some energy.”
“I mean, as a team, I like the resiliency, but it wasn’t good to be honest with you,” Tocchet added. “I’m happy. Listen, we won, I’m happy, but I’m not happy the way things went down because you’ve got to be careful. You can’t always have those first periods and try to come back. They’re tough.”
The Coyotes’ win was their first when trailing by three goals or more since December 14, 2018, when they defeated the New York Rangers.
Penalty shots don’t happen a lot, and this one got the Coyotes going in the second period. It was also the third short-handed penalty shot goal in Coyotes history.
Third star: Kuemper. Came up with some big saves early and late to keep the Coyotes in the game when it looked like the Ducks were headed for a blowout win.
Second star: Chychrun, whose goal and assist gave him 13 points (four goals) on the season. Only one other defenseman has a goal for the Coyotes this season.
First star: Dvorak, whose two goals gave him a team-leading nine on the season, and were his first goals in the past six games.
The first period was not at all to Tocchet’s liking, so he disbanded the “Short Leash Line” of Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Garland to start the second period and put them on other lines, while mixing and matching other players. The moves paid off.
The Coyotes made roster moves before Monday’s game that included sending center Barrett Hayton to AHL Tucson. Hayton, 20, was the Coyotes’ first round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and had two goals (three points) in 14 games this season. Having been scratched the past two games, Hayton will get the ice time he needs to further his development.
On the flip side, the Ducks welcomed their top pick in 2019, 19-year-old forward Trevor Zegras, to the lineup for his NHL debut Monday. Zegras, the most valuable player at the IIHF World Junior Championship in December and January, got the start and drew cheers from the Ducks fans in attendance at Gila River Arena when announced.
NBA legend Charles Barkley, an occasional visitor to Gila River Arena, took in the game from a suite. From the moment in the game when he was shown on the video board, the Coyotes scored four goals without giving one up.
The Coyotes host the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night. After that, the two teams aren’t scheduled to see each other again until March 18 and 20 in Orange County.