Even after a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday at Gila River Arena, the Coyotes still finished their five-game homestand with a 4-1 record and sit at 7-6 through the first 13 games of the season, an enviable position the club has not enjoyed in recent years.
So why do things feel so gloomy after an inauspicious loss to the Flyers on Monday?
On a night where the Coyotes started backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper, the Flyers managed two fluky goals and two others that Kuemper had no realistic shot at saving. The fifth came on an empty net (technically, so did the third, but we’ll get to that later).
Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet called it a “weird” game, and that word seemed to be the best descriptor of a game that wasn’t as discernible as the others played on this homestand.
“It was just a weird game,” Tocchet said. “I thought we battled back; it was 2-1, they didn’t have many chances, but (the Flyers’ Claude) Giroux’s a hell of a player and he doesn’t need many chances. … We were making a little bit of a press, but it was just a weird game.”
Kuemper also invoked the same word when asked about the game.
“I thought it was another good effort by us,” Kuemper said. “It just seemed all the bounces went their way. As for myself, I felt just like the other games but a couple weird ones ended up being the difference.”
The Coyotes had tallied three goals in each of their past three first periods on the homestand but did not find the net once in the opening frame on Monday. Instead, it was the Flyers who held a 1-0 lead after Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux started the scoring.
Luck turned bad to worse for the Coyotes in the second period when Derek Stepan inadvertently tipped a puck past Kuemper and into his own net to give the Flyers a 2-0 advantage.
Alex Galchenyuk added a power-play strike to bring the Coyotes within one goal, but Flyers forward Sean Couturier answered right back after Michael Grabner collided with Kuemper on the side of the net, taking the goaltender out of the play and giving Couturier an open net on which to fire.
“Our guy was back-checking and working hard to do the right thing,” Kuemper said of the play. “We just collided with each other. I ended up behind the net, and they get an empty net. Just another weird one.”
The Flyers made it 4-1 in the third period when Alex Goligoski fell victim to a tough sequence of events. First misplaying a puck in the offensive zone, he took his eye off the play and allowed Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds an easy takeaway. Then, Goligoski slowed up and allowed Giroux to join the rush. Giroux eventually scored on the other end on an easy two-man breakaway with Simmonds.
The Coyotes got back within two goals late when Michael Grabner sniped a puck past Flyers goaltender Calvin Pickard, but an empty-net score by the Flyers quickly put the game back out of reach.
“I thought we battled back,” Tocchet said. “We probably needed a little more form a couple games, but from a main (standpoint) I thought we battled back. … Like I said, we had our chances and they scored on theirs.”
The Coyotes now embark on a four-game road trip against several tough customers that include the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. They will get a chance against these Flyers in their next game on Thursday in Philadelphia.
“We have a chance here on Thursday to get back at them,” Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “We’ve got to focus on that game now and figured out how we need to play to get that win. We’ll have a good practice day (Tuesday) and then fly out to Philly and be ready on Thursday.”
Richard Morin covers the Coyotes and Diamondbacks for azcentral sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 480-316-2493. Follow him on Twitter @ramorin_azc.
The score: Flyers 5, Coyotes 2.
The streak: L1.
The record: 7-6-0, 6th in Pacific.
The 82-game pace: 44-38-0, 88 points.
The player: Claude Giroux.
The moment: Derek Stepan’s inadvertent tip into his own net at 19:10 of the first period.
The number: 16 — The total number of penalties committed in this game.
The quote: “You get back into it when you put some winning streaks together. The key to it now is you can’t have long losing streaks. You have to get back on, have a good practice tomorrow with good energy and then head to Philadelphia. It was a weird one tonight.” — Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet.
View from the press box: This game was not indicative of the strong defensive play the Coyotes have managed of late, and they let this game slip away down the stretch. Some tough luck helped keep them out of it, but it ultimately was not the Coyotes’ best showing.
Song of the night: “13 Years Bad Luck” by Alcoa.