Taylor Hall scored the go-ahead goal and Adin Hill made 37 saves in his first start of the season as the Arizona Coyotes dealt the Florida Panthers a 5-2 defeat last night at the BB&T Center.
After a scoreless first period, things opened up midway through the second with the teams combining for five goals in a torrid 5:19 span.
With Evgenii Dadonov off for tripping. Hall’s bullet from the top of the right circle deflected in off the screening Christian Dvorak’s stick. Oliver Ekman-Larsson drew the second assist on the goal. You’ll hear more of those names...
The Cats would strike back 1:01 later thanks to the hot twig of Noel Acciari. Acciari added to his career high with his 15th of the campaign with a nifty redirect of Keith Yandle’s one-timer from the point that came off a Vincent Trocheck feed. Acciari started the play off, which also involved Brett Connolly, with a takeaway below the goal line.
It only took 36 seconds until Florida briefly forged ahead. After gathering in the puck after Dominic Toninato got a piece of Jordan Oesterle’s shoot-in, Riley Stillman sent Mike Hoffman and Toninato away on a 2-on-1 break. Hoffman chose to shoot and rifled a wrister by Hill from the left circle for his 15th goal. He chose... wisely.
The Coyotes quickly evened the score thanks to a little muscle from a former Florida draftee. Before heading to the bench, Lawson Crouse knocked Yandle to the ice allowing Phil Kessel to take possession of the puck and gain the zone. Kessel skated a parsec or so before centering to Derek Stepan, who passed off to Ekman-Larsson, who slapped it home blocker side. Some crisp Arizona passing and some bad defensive work combined to allow this one. Trying to cover for Yandle, Acciari wrongly went to Kessel instead of picking up Stepan. This caused Josh Brown to stay in the middle of the ice instead of sliding over on Ekman-Larsson.
Hall would notch the go-ahead goal 2:06 later with Arizona on a 4-on-3 power play to cap off the second period scoring surge. The former Devil beat Chris Driegder with another hard shot from the right circle. Dvorak was again providing the screen and the assists went to Kessel and Ekman-Larsson.
Hill would stand tall in the third, stopping all 13 shots faced and the Coyotes would get the clincher with 2:02 remaining when another ex-Panther, Jason Demers, sent Carl Soderberg on a breakaway that the Swede sweetly converted backhand upstairs.
The hulking Crouse would add insult to injury with an empty net goal from Kessel at 19:12 to complete scoring.
In addition to opening its four-game homestand with a disappointing loss, the Cats got plenty of bad news from out of town. Carolina stayed in Wild Card 1 with a 5-4 overtime win over Philadelphia. The Bettman point allowed the Flyers to jump the Panthers in the standings. Florida also got passed in the wild card race by Columbus, who edged Anaheim in late action from the left coast. Florida’s next opponent, the Vancouver Canucks, were crushed 9-2 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts finally moved into second place in the Atlantic, leaving the Cats four points behind Toronto for third place in the division, and by embarrassing the Canucks, likely made things harder for the Panthers come Thursday night.
Kibbles & Bits
- The Coyotes have now won four in a row (matching a season-high) and moved back into first place in the Pacific Division. If there is any other franchise (aside from the Panthers) that needs a playoff appearance it’s Arizona. Hope they get in.
- Taylor Hall had his best game in a Coyotes uniform, producing his first multi-point game since the trade and a game-high eight shots on goal.
- After beating Pittsburgh on Sunday, Chris Driedger made his second start in a row and finished with 32 saves. Expect Sergei Bobrovsky to be in the net against Vancouver.
- Aleksander Barkov has now gone five games without producing a point.
- The Desert Dogs have killed 14 consecutive penalties over the past five games including two last night.
- For more on the latest edition in the eternal struggle between cats and dogs, check out Five For Howling.