At some point, the Coyotes will need to get bottom-line results, as much for their confidence as for cosmetics.
All the same, coach Rick Tocchet had to feel good about the way his team responded in a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks at Gila River Arena on Tuesday.
The Coyotes fell behind 2-0 to a team that was 6-2-2 in its previous 10 games and has dominated the Pacific Division (11-2-3), but Arizona never stopped pushing. Jordan Martinook scored off a highlight-reel deflection at 16:05 of the second period. Brad Richardson cleaned up Nick Cousins’ rebound at 6:10 of the third period to tie the game 2-2.
The Coyotes just couldn’t get the last one despite dominating the Sharks for the final two periods and overtime. Aaron Dell (30 saves) made big stops on Derek Stepan and Max Domi in overtime and Joe Pavelski scored the only goal in the shootout to lead the Sharks to their third straight win.
“There’s not a ton of games where we’ve been really blown out or embarrassed,” said Richardson, whose line produced both goals and seven shots. “It’s just games where we slip here or there and end up losing the game. It’s a fine line and we just seem to be on the wrong side of it a lot.
“Today felt different, and the shootout is a crapshoot, but it was nice to come back and get back in the game. It’s a rebuilding team and there’s a lot of young guys. Guys need experience and guys need to play to get that experience.”
The Coyotes have lost four straight (0-1-3) games and they are 3-10-4 in their past 17 games. If there is one overriding theme they can point to, it is a lack of scoring. Arizona has scored two goals or fewer in 12 of those 17 games.
The Coyotes had a two-minute, 4-on-3 power play in overtime but couldn’t cash in.
“The difference was the special teams,” Tocchet said. “They got the power play goal, we didn’t, but 5-on-5, I thought we were obviously the better team.”
If you’re looking for positive signs on a team that is on pace for 50 points, the fourth line was one. Martinook has two goals and six points in his past nine games. Richardson has two goals in his past three games after scoring one in his previous 43, and Cousins has found some chemistry with those players.
“We were creating it all around the ice so that’s good to see,” Martinook said. “It’s not pretty hockey, but it’s effective.”
The other unit that appears to be stabilizing is the blue line with Niklas Hjalmarsson back in the fold. Hjalmarsson logged 22:51 of ice time and was a force in the defensive zone with two hits and two blocks.
Jakob Chychrun logged a team-high 23:25 and Jason Demers continued a recent run of strong play with 22:38 of ice time, an assist, and a Corsi For percentage of 69.44 at 5-on-5.
“He’s been maybe our best defenseman the last 10 games,” Tocchet said. “We had a heart-to-heart talk I didn’t think he was playing well and he agreed with me. I think he’s been really good the last 10 games.”
It’s hard to see in the results, but the Coyotes have been better over their last 10 games, too, at 3-4-3.
“It’s always nice to come back, but it would be nice to finish one off here once,” Richardson said. “It’s like groundhog day on that song and dance.”