After taking a short pit stop back home, the Arizona Coyotes resume their NHL record-tying 14-game road trip on Thursday night when they face the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Coyotes, who play 20 of their first 24 games on the road while a new locker room annex is completed at their temporary home, Mullett Arena on the Arizona State campus in Tempe, went 3-2 on the first five games of the road trip. That included three consecutive victories at Washington (3-2), Buffalo (4-1) and the New York Islanders (2-0) before dropping both games of a weekend back-to-back against red-hot New Jersey (4-2) and the New York Rangers (4-1).
Despite the daunting road schedule, Arizona is a respectable 6-8-1 after their first 15 games. That’s a major improvement on how the Coyotes started the 2021-22 season when they were 1-13-1 out of the gate.
A major reason for the improvement has been special teams. The Coyotes rank fourth in the NHL on the power play (29.6 percent) after converting just 13.9 percent of the time with the extra man last season. Arizona also ranks seventh in penalty kill at 82.0 percent.
“We played some good hockey if you look at it as one trip,” Coyotes forward Nick Ritchie said of the 3-2-0 Eastern swing. “Obviously we won some games, but you can even take good things out of (Sunday’s loss) where we put it to a good team at home.”
Arizona outshot the Rangers 17-4 in the first period and 32-27 for the game but could only get one tally, a power-play score by Clayton Keller midway through the final period, past reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin.
The Rangers took control late in the second period when Barclay Goodrow and Adam Fox scored goals just 78 seconds apart. Chris Kreider made it 3-0 early in the third period with a power-play goal.
“We came out the first period especially and were all over them and had chances and a lot more shots than they did,” Ritchie said. “I wouldn’t say (we) stopped playing but they scored a couple and took the wind out of our sails.”
Next up is a Vegas team that leads the Western Conference in both wins (13) and points (26) but has dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season. That comes on the heels of a nine-game win streak, the second-longest in franchise history.
Both of the losses came at home to St. Louis (3-2) and San Jose (5-2).
The loss to the Sharks was just the second in regulation in the regular season in team history (19-2-4) for Vegas. The Golden Knights built a 2-1 lead in the contest on goals by Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault but surrendered four goals in the third period, with the final two being empty-netters by Logan Couture and Mario Ferraro after Timo Meier scored the game-winner with 2:48 remaining.
“I just thought we were sloppy the whole game,” Marchessault said. “Honestly, there’s no excuse for us to lose these past two games. We were right there. We just didn’t take over. It was right there for us. We didn’t bury a couple of chances. … It was just a bad night for us I think.”
–Field Level Media