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Recap: Coyotes Beat Knights, But Get Bumped From Playoff Race

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

LAS VEGAS -- Derek Stepan scored twice for the Coyotes in a 4-1 win over Vegas on Thursday night as Arizona played its final road game of the season at T-Mobile Arena.

The victory, however, was hollow because the Coyotes were eliminated from the race for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of Colorado's overtime win over Winnipeg earlier Thursday.

"This room's bummed," Stepan said. "You play an 82-game schedule, we're in the thick of things, and obviously came up a little bit short. When it's official and you're officially out, it stinks. We worked extremely hard, gone through a lot as a group, so it's never easy being told that your season will be done after your last game."

Video: Stepan: 'When You're Officially Out, It Stings'

The Coyotes learned of Colorado's win during the second intermission, but they kept competing at a high level vs. Vegas, adding a goal and keeping the playoff-bound Golden Knights from scoring.

"It was pretty tough to go out and play in the third, to be honest with you guys," captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson told reporters. "I'm so proud of the guys, with what we've been through with injuries and everything, to still be around with two games left it says a lot about this team. A bright future is ahead of us. Now we know what it takes to win in this League. Obviously we're not there right now, but hopefully this is something we can build off."

Goalie Darcy Kuemper, who returned to the lineup after leaving Tuesday's game vs. Los Angeles because of an eye injury, stopped all 15 shots he faced in the final period and 37 of 38 in the game.

Video: Ekman-Larsson: 'Bright Future Is Ahead Of Us'

"That shows a lot," Head Coach Rick Tocchet said of the team's effort in the final period. "They didn't mail it in. They played for 'Kuemps.' That's the stuff I'm proud of ... It's a tough one to swallow, but you have to give the Avs credit. They played great down the stretch."

Video: Tocchet Proud Of Coyotes For Effort at Vegas

Richard Panik and Conor Garland also scored goals on Marc-Andre Fleury for Arizona, which trailed, 1-0, but scored four unanswered goals to stretch its winning streak at Vegas to three games. Lawson Crouse chipped in two assists.

"We played hard," Tocchet said. "Vegas is getting ready for the playoffs. They were rolling four lines and trying to get the rust off. I was proud of the way the guys played."

After being eliminated, the Coyotes were left to wonder what might have been had they not played minus injured regulars such as Antti Raanta, Nick Schmaltz, Michael Grabner, Jason Demers and Christian Dvorak for long stretches of the season. 

"In my short career, I've never seen something quite like this, what our group went through with injuries," Stepan said. "This group came and worked hard every single day. No one made excuses for this group. Everyone just put their work boots on. Didn't matter, win (or) loss, we came back to the rink and we got back to work again the next day. That's a really positive thing."

The Coyotes will play their season finale at home on Saturday vs. Winnipeg. They will attempt to win their 40th game of the season that night, a feat the organization has accomplished just three times since moving from Winnipeg to Arizona in 1996, and not since 2011-12 when it won 42.  

"We'll go home and take care of business at home," Stepan said of Saturday's finale. "We want to make sure we finish this right ... We want to make sure that we tip our cap back to those fans."

Tweet from @ArizonaCoyotes: He STEPped up all season. ������ pic.twitter.com/ZDu8cHrcSC

 

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