Playing the last three games without All-Star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has not stopped the Arizona Coyotes from winning all three games. And right now they need to win as many games as possible to remain in the hunt for the postseason.
On Friday, the team recalled defenseman Philip Samuelsson to re-enforce the blue-line, especially after Nicklas Grossmann did not practice. Grossmann did play, and recalling Samuelsson was just a precautionary measure.
Louis Domingue, who, according to head coach Dave Tippett, deserves to get his share of starts due to his excellent play while Mike Smith was hurt, got the start in this important contest.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, after winning the first game of their current four game road trip, have lost twice to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars. The Coyotes were well rested with this game being just their third game in a week.
How it Went Down
The Coyotes came out seemingly disinterested, without even a shot on goal until the 11:41 mark of the first stanza. Even while on the power play the Coyotes only managed two shots, while Tampa Bay toyed with them by holding possession of the puck at will.
Michael Stone got called for roughing at 16:59 when he got tangled up with a Lightning player and couldn't free his stick. The Desert Dogs killed off the penalty, but three seconds later Ondrej Palat scored from the point on a shot Domingue couldn't see.
In the second period the Coyotes seemed to wake up, and had two different two man advantages, but failed to get one by Ben Bishop. One shot hit Bishop up high near his head, and it stunned him – and while he was down the Coyotes were satisfied with just passing the puck.
Things got chippy when Alex Killorn slashed Martin Hanzal. Hanzal went down in pain, but got called for embellishment. Hanzal and Tobias Rieder had a two on one break, but Reider shot it over the net.
The period was marked by several skirmishes with Brad Richardson, and Max Domi testing the Lightning players' patience level. The Coyotes outshot their opponents in the second period 13-11, but missed valuable scoring chances during the multiple two man advantages they squandered.
Duclair Dukes it Out
The third period saw a rarity–an Anthony Duclair fight. Not only was he called for five minutes in the fight with J.T. Brown, but he also was assessed two minor penalties for slashing and high sticking. In Duclair's defense, he was sticking up for this goaltender when Brown was slashing away at Domingue in the crease trying to score.
Domingue did all he could by stopping 34 shots, including a couple of near breakaways. What was ironic is the goal he did allow was just a fluke goal.
The one key save which Bishop made to save the game late at 17:48 of the last period was against Kevin Connauton who broke in and let a backhander go, which Bishop stopped – but Michalek could not covert the rebound past the stingy Tampa Bay netminder.
The Coyotes pulled Domingue for an extra attacker, and Nikita Kucherov sent a long shot down towards the Arizona net and scored the second goal of the game for Tampa Bay. The Coyotes were attacking the Lightning net when Matthew Carle hooked Hanzel, giving the Coyotes a 6 on four advantage, leaving Domingue on the bench in favor of the extra attacker. That was short lived when Shane Doan was called for hooking four seconds later.
The reason the Coyotes came up short in this contest was due to their inept power play, which did not score in six attempts.
Playoffs Becoming A Mirage
The loss put them eight points behind the Minnesota Wild and nine points behind the Colorado Avalanche, who possess the last Wild Card spot. With just 11 games left on the schedule, their time is running out.
The Coyotes must travel to San Jose for another game on Saturday, March 20, 2016. With each passing game growing in importance, losses will not advance their chances to qualify for the playoffs.
It may just be time for the team to look forward to next season