The Arizona Coyotes continue a make-or-break nine-game road trip on Friday night with the first of two games against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The fourth-place Coyotes, who hold a three-point lead over St. Louis for the final West Division playoff spot with a little over a month to go, hit a speedbump on their trip Wednesday night after winning three consecutive games, blowing a 3-1 third period lead in a bitter loss to the Kings.
Now comes a back-to-back with the Golden Knights who trail first-place Colorado by four points and come in off a frustrating loss of their own, losing 3-1 at St. Louis on Wednesday night despite pumping 51 shots on Jordan Binnington.
Arizona’s road trip began with a lopsided 9-3 loss at Colorado on March 31, but the Coyotes bounced back to win three in a row and looked in prime position to collect two more points on Wednesday night before their third-period collapse against the Kings.
“You’ve got to have a good practice tomorrow,” said Arizona coach Rick Tocchet afterward. “We flush (this game) down and get ready for Vegas. That’s the world we live in right now. You’ve got to be even keel. I know we’re disappointed. We gave it away, and we have to learn from it.”
“We took our foot off the gas,” forward Lawson Crouse said. “I think we thought it was going to be easy. In this league, you can’t do that. It’s sour. These are games that keep you up at night.”
It doesn’t get any easier. Vegas is 14-4-2 at home this season. And after Sunday afternoon’s second half of the back-to-back, the Coyotes travel to Denver for a Monday night contest with red-hot Colorado before finishing the trip with a Wednesday game at Minnesota.
“Guys are pissed right now,” added defenseman Jason Demers. “They know. I think that’s something good to have. The guys know what we did wrong, and we know what we messed up. It’s just about executing. We’ve just got to get pissed off and make sure we don’t let that happen again.”
Vegas, which cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Blues in the first game of their back-to-back on Monday, lost for the fourth time in five games in Wednesday’s rematch as Binnington made a career-high 50 saves.
St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 7:21 on goals by Vladimir Tarasenko and Sammy Blais and the Golden Knights, despite outshooting the Blues, 21-4, in the second period, failed to cut into the deficit. Jake Walman’s first NHL goal made it 3-0 in the third period before Nicolas Roy broke the shutout with 4:16 left.
“We only scored one, so you’re never happy with all the looks,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. “I thought we generated some quality chances. We didn’t have as much traffic as we had last game. Sometimes you have to give the other goalie some credit, and he was obviously excellent tonight.”
“You can’t really spot them two goals early,” added Golden Knights captain Mark Stone. “We blew them out in their building on Monday. It’s naive for us to think they’re not going to come out and give us their best game.”
–Field Level Media