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Memorable Moments: 2020-21

Special scenes mark Coyotes season

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

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Leighton's Legacy

Coyotes open their Ring to honor Leighton Accardo

The Coyotes inducted Leighton Accardo into the Ring of Honor on April 17 during an emotional pregame ceremony at Gila River Arena.

Leighton, 9, honorary Coyotes teammate, "Hockey Fights Cancer" ambassador and a skater with the Kachinas Girls' Hockey Association passed away November 24 from Stage Four cancer. 

She was the first person, NHL-wide, to be inducted into a team's Ring of Honor without being a former player, coach, general manager, or broadcaster. 

Leighton's name, "Accardo," and jersey No. 49, was placed into the arena's upper ring, just below the press box. They join those of Wayne Gretzky, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Teppo Numminen, Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen and Bobby Hull.

The Coyotes fell behind 2-0 after the first period, but during the first intermission captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson predicted Arizona would rally and win the game.

"We're going to turn this around for (Leighton) and get a big win for her and her family," Ekman-Larsson said, at the conclusion of that period.

Video: STL@ARI: Ekman-Larsson calls Coyotes' comeback win 

Indeed, they did. The Coyotes scored twice in the second period and once in the third period to earn a come-from-behind, 3-2, victory.

The Coyotes wore special jerseys during pre-game warm-ups. The jerseys featured a ribbon and Coyote logo, with Leighton's "Skate Hard, Have Fun" motto; the "LA49" logo patch on the shoulders, and "In Loving Memory" inside the collar. All the nameplates read "Leighton." The jerseys were later auctioned off to benefit the Leighton Accardo Memorial Scholarship Fund for girls' hockey in Arizona.

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Chychrun's Career Year

Young defenseman starred

Jakob Chychrun finished as the NHL's top goal-scoring defenseman in 2020-21.

Chychrun scored 18 goals, two more than the league's second-leading goal-scoring defenseman, Edmonton's Darnell Nurse.

Video: ARI@LAK: Chychrun blasts a slap shot for a PPG

He compiled a brilliant season, all together, and was one of five Coyotes to play in all 56 games. Chychrun was the Coyotes' second-leading scorer, with 41 points, recording 23 assists, to go along with his 18 goals. His name emerged in the Norris Trophy candidacy conversation. He scored five power play goals, and three game-winning goals.

He recorded nine, multi-point games. Only Phil Kessel (12) and Conor Garland (10) had more.

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Three's Company

Good things came in threes

A Coyote scored three times, four times -- one time more than a "hat trick of hat tricks."

Scoring three goals in one game became "en vogue" for the team during a two-week stretch, from March 20 to April 5. Four Coyotes recorded a hat trick during a nine-game span.

Derick Brassard kicked things off in a 5-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on March 20, needing just 20:36 in elapsed time to complete the accomplishment.

One week later, March 27, Phil Kessel scored his seventh career hat trick in a 4-0 win over the San Jose Sharks. Kessel scored the final three goals in the commanding victory. 

Video: SJS@ARI: Kessel collects natural hat trick vs. Sharks

Then, the threes came in twos, as the Coyotes scored hat tricks consecutive nights 

Jakob Chychrun scored his first career hat trick April 4 in a 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. Chychrun became the second defenseman in franchise history to score a hat trick, and the first since 2010. He became the eighth defenseman in NHL history to complete a hat trick with an overtime goal.

The next night, April 5, Michael Bunting recorded the first hat trick of his NHL career in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Bunting and Chychrun combined for consecutive hat tricks, the first time that feat has been accomplished by Coyotes since November 12-13, 2010 (Vernon Fiddler, Ray Whitney).

The Coyotes were undefeated, 4-0-0, in their "hat trick games."

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First and Four-most

Getting on the board in the big leagues 

Four Coyotes scored their first NHL goals this season -- Lane Pederson, Ilya Lyubushkin, Victor Soderstrom and Jan Jenik. 

Pederson was the first to tally his first, April 4, in his NHL debut, a 4-2 win over the Ducks. Pederson became the 13th player in Coyotes history to score a goal in an NHL debut, when he collected a friendly carom off the boards while on the forecheck and beat Anaheim's Anthony Stolarz with a slick backhand/forehand deke. 

Video: ARI@ANA: Pederson slips puck in after odd bounce

"A lucky bounce off the stanchion there and it comes right to me," Pederson said. "I just tried to make a move on the goalie, and I'm lucky it worked. 

"It's tough to even put (the feelings) into words. Just to see it go in. Like, 'Did that really happen?' A lot of excitement, I'm just happy to contribute." 

Ilya Lyubushkin followed suit April 7, scoring his first NHL goal against the Kings with a slapshot from the right point. Quite unlike Pederson's debut-score, Lyubushkin's first goal came in his 118th NHL game. 

"I was happy that it finally happened," he said. "It's something that I will remember for the rest of my career." 

The Coyotes celebrated two "firsts" April 5, in San Jose. 

The first "first" came from Victor Soderstrom, who was playing in his third NHL game. Soderstromg showcased his skills, as he danced around a defenseman high in the defensive zone before walking in with patience and poise to place a perfect shot past the Sharks' Josef Korenar.

Video: ARI@SJS: Soderstrom scores impressive first NHL goal

"It was a really special moment," Soderstrom said. "You know, obviously, it's scoring your first NHL goal. Also, Oliver (Ekman-Larsson) getting the assist -- that's special."

Later in the game, Jan Jenik, making his NHL debut, netted his goal into an empty net to secure the Coyotes 5-2 win. 

Jenik scored his second NHL goal in the next game, becoming only the second player in franchise history (Christian Fischer) to score a goal in each of his first two NHL contests. 

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Perfectly Done

Dvorak's trademark move 

No one was as automatic as Christian Dvorak when it came to 2020-21 shootouts. Dvorak tied for the league lead in shootout goals with four. He also was the only player with more than two attempts to achieve perfection. Dvorak was four-for-four. 

He also tied for the league lead in shootout, game-deciding goals, with two.

Dvorak participated in four of the Coyotes five shootouts; he was not selected to shoot in the regular-season opener, a 4-3 loss. 

Dvorak scored in the Coyotes shootout win February 8 against the St. Louis Blues;  February 18 against the Kings; February 24 against the Ducks, and March 23 against the Colorado Avalanche.

He also converted his lone penalty shot, February 22 against the Ducks.

He went to his bread-and-butter move, every time -- backhand, top shelf, a trick he pulled on all five occasions (including that penalty shot).

"I decided to stick with the same move," Dvorak said. "And it went in. Most of the time, if you're able to elevate (the puck) in tight, it's going to go in the back of the net.

"Just be focused," he continued. "Try to figure out your move and execute. Most of the time if you're able to elevate in tight, it's going to go in the back of the net. That's what I try to worry about." 

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Buzzer Beater Blues

Keller's last-second goal highlights St. Louis series

Schedule changes adjusted the Coyotes' schedule as never before. They played the Blues seven straight times from February 2-15.

Seven straight times! 

The Coyotes posted a 4-2-1 record over that span. 

The "Short Leash Line" -- Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland -- combined for 21 points during the series. Keller registered six points (3G, 3A), Schmaltz had seven points (3G, 4A). Garland also notched seven points (3G, 4A).

Keller scored arguably the most important goal of the series, February 8, tying the game with 0.5 seconds left to force overtime and a shootout, which the Coyotes won. 

Video: ARI@STL: Keller buries nice pass from Dvorak for PPG

The seven regular-season games played between the Coyotes and Blues were the most consecutively between any two teams in NHL history.

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The Bunting Boost

Late-season call-up paced late-season Coyotes

Michael Bunting was recalled from the AHL, and was promoted from the Taxi Squad on March 31 - he never looked back.

In fact, he scored at the highest rate through the Coyotes' final 21 games, leading the team with 10 goals from the time of his season debut until the end of the campaign.

Video: ARI@COL: Bunting gets Coyotes on the board in 1st

Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, Bunting has played six seasons with the franchise. He is the Tucson Roadrunners' all-time leader in points (180), goals (74), assists (106) and games played (260).

Bunting added three assists to finish his abbreviated season with 14 points.

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Many (More) Milestones

Personal achievements aplenty

Aside from NHL debuts and first goals, the Coyotes season was dotted with numerous milestones.

Darcy Kuemper earned his 100th NHL win February 8, making a season-high 40 saves in a shootout win over the St. Louis. Kuemper also played his 100th game as a Coyote on January 26 against the Ducks at Gila River Arena. 

Jakob Chychrun recorded his 100th point March 20. Phil Kessel notched his 500th assist on the same night and, weeks later, collected his 900th NHL point May 9.

Video: ARI@SJS: Kessel scores on breakaway for 900th point

Derrick Brassard registered his 500th point April 24

Niklas Hjalmarsson played his 800th game March 3; Alex Goligoski played his 900th game March 22.

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Skatin' For Leighton

Memorial fund activated by Lyndsey Fry

Lyndsey Fry catalyzed the "Leighton Accardo Scholarship Fund" with"Skatin' For Leighton," a 96-mile, 14-hour, roller-blade trek in February. Fry hit every ice rink in the Greater Valley. More than $100,000 has been raised to date. 

The fund provides financial assistance to girls who are interested in playing hockey in Arizona, providing them the opportunity to pursue the same passion as Leighton's. Leighton played in the Kachinas Association. She began her youth hockey career with the Arizona Hockey Union Knights.

"Leighton loved meeting girls that played hockey," Carly Accardo, Leighton's mother, said. "So, to bring more girls into this sport is incredible. It's grown so much over the last few years here in Arizona. So, to have that to help keep it going is going to be incredible."

Fry began her journey at the Phoenix Children's Hospital, where Leighton underwent most of her cancer treatment. She made her first stop at AZ Ice Arcadia; then went south to Ice Den Chandler; then east to AZ Ice Gilbert; then north to Coyotes Community Ice Center in Gilbert, Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Ice Den Scottsdale, then west to AZ Ice Peoria, before finishing at Gila River Arena.

"It's probably one of the most special things I'll ever get to do," Fry said. "Leighton probably would call me crazy. And, yeah, there were definitely some times where I kind of imagined she'd have something funny to say or make a joke or whatever. But, I hope, too, that she would be proud of me."

Lead Photo Credits: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Second Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Third Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Fourth Photo Credit: Debora Robinson - NHLI via Getty Images // Fifth Photo Credit: Juan Ocampo - NHLI via Getty Images // Sixth Photo Credit: Scott Rovak - NHLI via Getty Images // Seventh Photo Credit: Scott Rovak - NHLI via Getty Images // Eighth Photo Credit: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes // Ninth Photo Credit: Matt Cohen - Icon Sportswire via Getty Images // Tenth Photo Credit: Kaci Demarest - Arizona Coyotes // Eleventh Photo Credit: Kaci Demarest - Arizona Coyotes

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