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The Wrap: Coyotes Start Strong, Fall Short in Home Stand Opener

Ekman-Larsson scores first of season, Arizona remains six points back of final West Division playoff spot

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
Final Score: Avalanche 5, Coyotes 1
Record: 13-14-5
Standings: 6th-place, West Division

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An auspicious start for the Coyotes Monday night was quelled following back-to-back first period Avalanche goals in the team's 5-1 loss to Colorado at Gila River Arena. 

Arizona matched, and at times out-played its opponent the majority of the first period. 

"I thought we came out really hot," Hudson Fasching said. "We were in their end. We were going toe to toe with them. They have some fire power, and they can turn the game at the flick of a switch. I thought we were going to be able to weather it."

The Avalanche scored twice in 1:06, late in the first period, to take a 2-0 lead.

"It's tough when you know you're playing really well and then you let in two quick," Fasching said. "It's hard to bounce back from that."

Colorado fired away for 20 shots in the second period, scoring one more goal to increase its lead to 3-0. 

"They came at us in waves," said head coach Rick Tocchet.

The Coyotes punched back in the third period with a power play goal from Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson's goal, his first of the season, cut the Coyotes' deficit to 3-1. He stepped into a Phil Kessel pass to beat Philipp Grubauer low to the glove side.

The Avalanche responded with two more goals in the final minutes.

"They're a fast team," Nick Schmaltz said. "They've got good sticks. They pressure the puck super hard. There's a lot less time and space when you're playing against them. You've got to think quick. You've got to know where your teammates are, you've got to work to support each other." 

Antti Raanta finished the game with 30 saves.

Niklas Hjalmarsson left the game after the second period due to a lower-body injury.

The Coyotes have three games remaining on their current four-game home stand, and remain six points back of the final West Division playoff spot.

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The Game:

First Period: The Avalanche scored two goals in 1:06 to take a 2-0 lead: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (14:22) and Mikko Rantanen (15:28).

Second Period: Nazem Kadri (11:44) increased the Avalanche lead to 3-0.

Third Period: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (16:19) cut the Coyotes' deficit to 3-1. Joonas Donskoi scored twice (17:28, 19:49) to build a late, 5-1 lead for Colorado.

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Statistics: 

SOG: ARI - 25, COL - 35

PP: ARI - 1/2, COL - 0/3

Hits: ARI - 32, COL - 16

Blocks: ARI - 23, COL - 10 

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Tocchet's Take: "There were certain parts of the game where we held their own, but their depth just really took over. (The Avalanche) have guys who come out of the corners, and you've got to be able to defend it, you've got to be able to squash cycles. They've got some big players out there that are skilled. Sometimes you've got to double up (on them), and sometimes they find the open guy. You've got to be in sync, you've got to be able to squash those plays." 

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Hudson Fasching said: "We have a bad taste in our mouth from that (game). We came out strong, we really liked our game, and to be able to get right back out there (tomorrow night) and get back in their face is something I think the team is looking forward to. We feel like we can play with these guys, it's definitely frustrating to be that close and let it slip away as the game went on. We want to go right back out there and get back after it."

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Notable:

  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his first goal of the season and the 54th power play goal of his career, which ranks third-most by a Swedish defenseman in NHL history.
  • Alex Goligoski played in his 900th NHL game.
  • Phil Kessel registered an assist to record his team-leading eighth power play point of the season.
  • The Coyotes blocked 23 shots, their second-most in a game this season (24 - Feb. 4 at St. Louis).

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A Closer Look: Despite the regulation loss, the Coyotes did not lose any ground in the West Division playoff race. Sixth-place Arizona is chasing fifth-place Los Angeles and fourth-place St. Louis, both of whom lost in regulation Monday night. The Kings lost to the San Jose Sharks, 2-1; the Blues lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, 5-1. The Coyotes remain six points back of the final West Division playoff spot. 

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Coyotes Lineup:

Forwards

Keller - Schmaltz - Garland

Caggiula - Dvorak - Kessel

Crouse - Brassard - Pitlick

Fischer - Larsson - Fasching

Defensemen

Ekman-Larsson - Lyubushkin

Chychrun - Gross

Oesterle - Hjalmarsson

Scratches

Hayden

Demers

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Roster Notes: No lineup changes from the previous game. Niklas Hjalmarsson left the game after the second period due to a lower-body injury.

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What's Next: The Coyotes reprise against the Avalanche Tuesday night, 7 p.m., at Gila River Arena.

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Photo of the Game: Oh, snap! Phil Kessel breaks his stick as he attempts a shot in the first period.

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Highlights:

Video: Condensed Game: Avalanche @ Coyotes

Lead Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images

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