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Coyotes' Exhibition Reaction: No Overreaction

Team has an off-day Friday; practice scheduled Saturday ahead of Qualifying Round

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

Taylor Hall made it clear prior to Thursday's test run: win or lose, there would be no overreacting to the result of the exhibition game.

"We're still eyeing Game 1 (against Nashville) as peaking, as being our best performance," Hall said. "This wasn't the result we wanted, but sometimes it's better to get a kick in the butt to reinforce what we have to do as a team, and how we have to play." 

Hall scored the Coyotes' lone goal in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights.

Hall, who registered 10 goals and 27 points in 35 regular-season games with the Coyotes, halved Vegas' lead, 2-1, shoveling home a loose rebound in front of the Golden Knights' net at 9:14 of the third period.

Video: VGK@ARI: Hall nets PPG amid scramble in front

That's as close as Arizona would get. The Golden Knights responded with a pair of goals during the final minutes, including an empty netter.

The status of Nick Schmaltz is of some concern. Schmaltz left the game late in the second period after taking a Ryan Reaves hit to the head. He did not return and will be evaluated before the Coyotes return to practice Saturday.

The Coyotes' third period was undoubtedly their best Thursday. They out-shot the Golden Knights, 12-8, during the final frame.

"I liked the response in the third," head coach Rick Tocchet said. "Getting that big power play goal. We had a couple chances to tie (the game). We missed the net on three Grade-A chances on (Marc-Andre Fleury) there."

Tocchet was impressed with the team's tone in the game's latter stages, but he reiterated that a better performance - from start to finish - is necessary.

"You've got to play 60 minutes in the playoffs," he said. "You can't have lulls. Our team can't have a lull. For this first exhibition game, there were some parts that I liked and some parts I didn't. Details and discipline have to get better for Sunday."

Tocchet, though, is not sounding any alarms.

"Win or lose - if we had a great game," he stressed. "I'd say the same thing to our players -- 'even-keeled.' You've got to take some of the things that were good, and some of the things that weren't so good. You've got to have an even-keeled approach."

The Coyotes are off Friday. It is their first off-day since arriving in Edmonton. First-game jitters will be put aside.

"To me, it's about relaxing a bit," Tocchet said. "I felt there were a few guys that were a little nervous out there. Vegas is a good team to play before the playoffs. They're a tough team, they're a big team. So, it was a good first game for us. I'm actually glad we played them."

Darcy Kuemper played the first two periods, stopping 17 of 19 shots, keeping the Golden Knights from tacking onto their early two-goal lead. As planned, Antti Raanta played the third period. He stopped six of seven shots.

"Our goalies were good," said Tocchet. "I thought they played well."

The exhibition defeat amplifies what the Coyotes need to address prior to Game 1 Sunday against the Predators. It's the first game in the Qualifying Round series, game time is 11:00 a.m. local. 

Video: Condensed Game: Golden Knights @ Coyotes

Special teams stole the spotlight Thursday. While the Coyotes out-shot the Golden Knights, 17-15, during five-on-five play, much of their game plan was adjusted due to six minor penalties, including four consecutive penalties mid-way through the game.

"When you start taking penalties, it really affects your team," Tocchet said. "The rotation, the bench, some guys are sitting around."

For instance, fourth-liner Christian Fischer played only 6:29. The fourth-line time, which adds to any team's overall depth, was reduced due to the odd-man play. 

"Special teams were the deciding factor in this game," Fischer said. "If you ask any guy over the last 10 years who's played in the playoffs, special teams are do-or-die. It's a matter of winning a game or losing a game."

There will be ebbs and flows and ups and downs during the Coyote playoff quest. And as far as Tocchet is concerned, Thursday was just another chapter in the journey, which resumes Sunday, for real.

"The playoffs are a roller-coaster ride," Tocchet said. "You win games and you lose games. It's the teams that can recover, not so much physically, but mentally.

"That's something that we're learning on the fly."

Lead Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick - NHLI via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: Andy Devlin - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Dave Sandford - NHLI via Getty Images

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