A quirky schedule to start the season finally caught up to the Coyotes on Thursday night at Gila River Arena.
Playing the second game of their second back-to-back series in less than a week, Arizona fell behind 3-0 to the Minnesota Wild and lost 4-3. It was the team’s first defeat in four games.
“They came at us quick and we didn’t react very well right from the opening face-off,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after the team’s first loss of the season. “We didn’t execute very well and put ourselves on our heels and got behind. When you’re maybe a little bit tired as a group, chasing the game is not ideal.”
The Coyotes played the Wild one night after beating the Ducks, 4-0, in Anaheim. Minnesota hadn’t played a game since Saturday and took the ice full-throttle correctly assuming the Coyotes were battling fatigue.
“We knew that was coming, we just didn’t handle it that well,” Tippett said.
The Wild scored three goals within the first 27:07 and Tippett responded by replacing starting goalie Mike Smith with backup Anders Lindback.
To their credit, the Coyotes hung in and eventually rallied to within 4-3 when Michael Stone scored his first goal of the season at 15:12 of the third period. But that was as close as they got.
“We were competitive,” captain Shane Doan said. “We tried to find ways to win. In the third period we played with a little desperation, and that’s what we needed to play with the whole game… Everyone plays back-to-back and that’s going to be par for the course for the NHL. It’s not easy getting up for that next one sometimes… We got in late last night, but it’s the way it goes and we have to make sure we’re better than what we started with.”
Rookie Anthony Duclair agreed.
“We showed a lot of character in the third,” Duclair said. “Even though we were down, it was the first time in the season we faced adversity and the guys didn’t let up.”
► Trailing 3-0, Duclair scored his team-high fourth goal of the season at 12:14 of the second period. Max Domi assisted on the goal and scored one of his own, his third, with 10 seconds left in the second period on a power play.
Domi and Duclair co-lead all NHL rookies with six points, and Duclair is tied for most goals.
“Things are rolling and we’ve got to keep things going,” Duclair said.
► Center Antoine Vermette suffered a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return.
“I don’t think it’s too serious,” Tippett said.
Vermette has played in 479 consecutive regular-season games. The Coyotes next play at home on Saturday vs. Boston.
► Center Martin Hanzal helped set up Domi’s goal for his seventh assist of the season. He has started the season with a four-game point streak, one shy of his career-high, and he co-leads the NHL in assists and points (seven).
► Doan notched his first point of the season and the 899th of his NHL career when he assisted on Stone’s goal in the third period.
► Lindback, whom Arizona signed as a free agent over the summer, stopped six of seven shots in his debut with the Coyotes.
► The Coyotes staged a birthday party for 103-year-old Marion Clark at Thursday’s game.
Clark, who lives in Chandler, attended the game and watched it from a suite with family members and friends, including two of her grandchildren and three great grandchildren. The Coyotes presented the long-time hockey fan with a team jersey.