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The Wrap: Bunting Makes His Case in Colorado

25-year-old forward registers first career multi-point game in season debut

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
Final Score: Avalanche 9, Coyotes 3
Record: 16-15-5
Standings: 5th-place, West Division

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Michael Bunting stressed his desire to remain in the Coyotes lineup following Wednesday's game. His performance certainly supports his case.

Bunting was one of the few bright spots in the Coyotes' 9-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. The 25-year-old made his season debut and played in his sixth career NHL game, scoring a goal and recording an assist.

"To be honest, I went into today's game with a 'nothing to lose' attitude," Bunting said.

He scored on his first shift of the game, on his first shot, beating reigning Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar wide before skating in alone to connect with a wrist shot on Philipp Grubauer.

Head coach Rick Tocchet was impressed with the forward's showing. 

"I probably should have put him in a couple games earlier," Tocchet said. "That's what we need. I liked his game. He was trying to do the things we were asking, and he had a goal. Good for him." 

Bunting's goal came in the thick of a rapid pace scoring spree to open the game. The Avalanche and Coyotes combined to score six goals in a 3:27 window; Colorado built an early and commanding 5-1 lead. 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his second goal of the season in the waning moments of the first period to cut the Coyotes' deficit to 5-2.

Conor Garland became the fourth Coyote to hit double-digits in goals late in the second period, scoring his 10th of the season to get Arizona within two, 5-3. Bunting registered his first career NHL assist on Garland's goal. The two were teammates for parts of three seasons with the AHL Tucson Roadrunners.

"It definitely helps (playing with) some familiar faces," Bunting said. "It's much easier coming onto a team like that when you know the guys and you know how they play. I was lucky to get that to (Garland) and he was able to put it in. We've played a lot together down in Tucson and we picked it up right there on that shift, so that was good." 

The Avalanche scored four unanswered goals to build a 9-3 lead - the night's final score. 

Goaltender Ivan Prosvetov made his NHL debut when he relieved Adin Hill with 13:38 remaining in the first period. Hill surrendered four goals on 10 shots faced. Prosvetov made 23 saves in 53:38 of action. 

"Sometimes goalies are going to have a tough night," Tocchet said. "I wanted to get (Prosvetov) in there, give him a chance. I thought he was great, I thought Provo came in there and battled his ass off. Hill battles too, Hilly will be back in against Anaheim."

Back to Bunting, who hopes to have another chance to prove his worth when the road trip shifts to Southern California. 

"I think my game has matured since the last time I've been up here two years ago," Bunting said. "I've got a lot of people to thank, the coaching staff in Tucson, they've been great to me, giving me the confidence to play my game up here. Same with (Rick Tocchet) and the coaching staff here, putting me in (the lineup) and giving me that chance. I can't thank them enough. Hopefully I can stay." 

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The Game:

First Period: The teams combined for six goals in 3:27. Joonas Donskoi (4:04), Andre Burakovsky (4:31), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (5:36), Donskoi (6:04) and Donskoi (7:31) scored for Colorado. Michael Bunting (4:41) scored for Arizona. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored with 1:03 remaining in the period.

Second Period: Conor Garland cut the Coyotes' deficit to two with a goal at 17:45. Gabriel Landeskog (18:06) reclaimed a three-goal lead for the Avalanche.

Third Period: Mikko Rantanen (6:05), Landeskog (11:57) and Burakovsky (16:49) tacked on to increase Colorado's lead to 9-3. 

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Statistics: 

SOG: ARI - 31, COL - 38

PP: ARI - 1/6, COL - 2/4

Hits: ARI - 24, COL - 10

Blocks: ARI - 17, COL - 8 

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Tocchet's Take: "It's frustrating for everybody. When adversity hits, you're looking for who's standing up, that's really what I'm looking for. Tough game tonight. Obviously, we weren't ready to play, everybody really had a bad game. In this sport, we've got to flush it down and be ready for Anaheim, that's the way we've got to approach it right now." 

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Alex Goligoski said: "Everyone's got to look in the mirror, to use the old cliché. It was bad. I don't know if anyone really played well out there tonight. You analyze it, you watch it, you realize how much better you need to be. You get rid of it. We have a lot of important games coming up, and you can't dwell on something like (this game). So, that will be the plan moving forward."

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Notable:

  • Ivan Prosvetov made his NHL debut and made 23 saves in 53:38 of action.
  • Michael Bunting registered his first NHL assist and his first career multi-point game (1G, 1A).
  • Michael Bunting logged a career high 15:01 TOI.
  • Conor Garland became the fourth Coyote to hit double-digits in goals scored (10).
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson extended his point streak to three games with his first period goal.
  • Nick Schmaltz extended his point streak to three games with the secondary assist on Bunting's goal.

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A Closer Look: The Coyotes (37 points) remain one point back of the St. Louis Blues (38) for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division. The Blues did not play Wednesday night, and now have one game in hand on the Coyotes. The sixth place Los Angeles Kings and seventh place San Jose Sharks won their respective games, and are now three points (34) behind the fifth place Coyotes.

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Coyotes Lineup: 

Forwards

Keller - Larsson - Kessel

Fischer - Dvorak - Garland

Crouse - Brassard - Hunt

Bunting - Schmaltz - Hayden

Defensemen

Chychrun - Goligoski

Ekman-Larsson - Lyubushkin

Oesterle - Demers 

Scratches

Caggiula

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Roster Notes: Michael Bunting made his season debut, replacing Drake Caggiula on the fourth line. Ivan Prosvetov made his NHL debut, relieving Adin Hill with 13:38 remaining in the first period. Tyler Pitlick (lower-body), Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper-body), Antti Raanta (lower-body) and Darcy Kuemper (lower-body) remain on the Injured Reserve list. 

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What's Next: The Coyotes travel to Anaheim Wednesday night and have a practice scheduled Thursday afternoon. They play the Anaheim Ducks Friday night, 7:00 p.m., at Honda Center. 

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Photo of the Game: Fist bumps for "Bunts." Michael Bunting skates by the Coyotes bench for congratulatory checks from teammates after scoring in the first period.

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Highlights:

Video: Condensed Game: Coyotes @ Avalanche

Lead Photo Credit: Michael Martin - NHLI via Getty Images

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