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The Wrap: Pederson Scores in Debut, Coyotes Claim Playoff Position

Arizona beats Anaheim and moves into fourth place in West Division

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes
Final Score: Coyotes 4, Ducks 2
Record: 17-15-5
Standings: 4th-place, West Division

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Lane Pederson's lifelong dream turned into reality Friday night as the Coyotes topped the Anaheim Ducks by a 4-2 final at Honda Center.

Pederson made his NHL debut and scored his first NHL goal. His tally proved pivotal -- it ignited a run of three unanswered Coyotes goals in a victory which earned Arizona the fourth and final playoff position in the West Division.

"You work your whole life to get to this moment," Pederson said. "There were a lot of emotions today, a lot of nerves, but it was a lot of fun. I'm just so thankful for the opportunity."

Assistant coach Jay Varady called Pederson Thursday night hinting there was a strong possibility he would be in the lineup. Pederson showed up to the rink Friday morning and saw his Number 93 on the white board.

"I called my parents, I called my girlfriend and other family members," he said. "There was just a lot of excitement."

Trailing 2-1 in the second period, Pederson hunted the Ducks zone on the forecheck, collected a friendly carom off the boards and beat Anthony Stolarz with a slick deke to his backhand before depositing forehand.

"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."

Christian Dvorak made a beeline to the Ducks net after Pederson scored to gather the puck for safe keeping. Pederson plans to give the special memento to his parents.

"They obviously invested a lot in me to get me to this point," Pederson said. "I wouldn't be here without them, so I'll definitely be giving (the puck) to them."

Head coach Rick Tocchet sees potential in Pederson.

"I like his speed and his poise with the puck," Tocchet said. "For his first game, late in the year like this, there's some stuff we can work with, I think there's some good stuff there."

Pederson's equalizer was the second of the night for the Coyotes. Johan Larsson erased a 1-0 deficit with a goal late in the first period.

The Coyotes tacked on two more goals after Pederson's, scoring twice in the third period to secure the win. Phil Kessel scored his team-leading 15th goal of the year to give Arizona a 3-2 lead with 7:58 remaining. Nick Schmaltz added insurance with 3:04 remaining to double the Coyotes' lead, 4-2.

Jordan Gross returned to the lineup for the first time since February 2 and registered a career-high three assists. It is Gross's first three-point performance at the pro level. He assisted the Coyotes first, third and fourth goals.

"I felt good out there," Gross said. "It's been a while. But I think the coaches did a really good job of kind of keeping me ready for the opportunity to step in. I wasn't really worried about offense at all. I wanted to be really good in the defensive zone, and I was just fortunate."

Gross played two seasons with Pederson and Michael Bunting with the AHL Tucson Roadrunners. Seeing those players make an impact at the NHL level resonates with him.

"It's great to see," Gross said. "I think that goes down because the coaching staff in Tucson does a really good job of developing guys. They're a big reason why these guys are able to come in and step in like this."

Speaking of Roadrunners alumni, goaltender Adin Hill put forth a strong, bounce-back performance after getting the early hook in Wednesday's loss to Colorado. Hill made 27 saves to earn his fifth win of the season.

"Hilly bounced back," Tocchet said. "That's character, he's a battler."

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The Game: 

First Period: Alexander Volkov scored at 16:06 to give the Ducks a 1-0 lead. Johan Larsson tied the game, 1-1, at 18:43.

Second Period: Jakob Silfverberg (4:28) gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead. Lane Pederson tied the game, 2-2, at 10:47.

Third Period: Phil Kessel claimed the first lead of the game for the Coyotes, 3-2, at 12:02. Nick Schmaltz doubled the Coyotes' lead, 4-2, at 16:56.

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Statistics:

SOG: ARI - 31, ANA - 29

PP: ARI - 0/2, ANA - 0/2

Hits: ARI - 30, ANA - 22

Blocks: ARI - 11, ANA - 8 

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Tocchet's Take: "We needed hungry guys. I think (Bunting) has given us two, great back-to-back games. He went to net on that big goal by Schmaltz, that's a big play for us. I've been wanting to get (Gross) in the lineup for a while, I just decided I'm putting Grosser in and he had three assists tonight. And then (Pederson) gets his first goal. Things worked out tonight. But honestly, (those three players provided) a lot of juice. (We were) looking for some juice, and they supplied it for us." 

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Lane Pederson said: "The Coyotes took a chance on me, signing me (to a contract) out of (training) camp back when I was 19. It's been a road to get here. I can't thank my coaches enough in Tucson, the entire organization for believing in me and helping me get here. My family (too). It's been a long road to get here, and I couldn't be happier."

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Notable:

  • Lane Pederson made his NHL debut and scored his first NHL goal. Pederson became the 13th player in Coyotes history to score a goal in an NHL debut.
  • Jordan Gross registered a career-high three assists.
  • Phil Kessel scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season and surpassed his 70-game total (14) from last season.
  • Nick Schmaltz registered his fourth multi-point game of the season (1G, 1A) and leads the Coyotes in road points with 13 (6G, 7A).

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A Closer Look: The Coyotes leapfrogged the St. Louis Blues to claim the fourth and final West Division playoff position. The Blues lost to the Colorado Avalanche Friday night, and have one game in hand on the Coyotes. Arizona (39) is one point up on St. Louis (38). The San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 Friday night, and moved into sixth place, three points (36) back of the Coyotes. 

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Coyotes Lineup:

Forwards

Fischer - Larsson - Kessel

Keller - Dvorak - Pederson

Crouse - Brassard - Hayden

Bunting - Schmaltz - Garland

Defensemen

Ekman-Larsson - Lyubushkin

Chychrun - Goligoski

Oesterle - Gross

Scratches

Hunt

Demers

Caggiula

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Roster Notes: Lane Pederson made his NHL debut. Jordan Gross played his first game since February 2, his fourth game of the season. 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 have a practice scheduled Saturday afternoon in Anaheim. They play the Ducks Sunday night, 6:00 p.m., at Honda Center.

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Photo of the Game: Pederson's moment. Teammates Clayton Keller and Ilya Lyubushkin skate toward Lane Pederson to celebrate his first NHL goal. Christian Dvorak (far left) can be seen collecting the puck from the Ducks' net.

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Postgame Interviews: Lane Pederson, Jordan Gross and Rick Tocchet

Video: Postgame: Apr. 2 at ANA (4-2 W)

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Highlights:

Video: Kessel earns 2 points, helping Coyotes to 4-2 victory

Lead Photo Credit: Debora Robinson - NHLI via Getty Images

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