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NHL Insider

Tough road trip could benefit young Coyotes

Show improvement along way, end six-game stretch with win against Flyers

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- What looks like a dreadful road trip actually has a chance to turn into one of the best things to happen to the Arizona Coyotes this season.

That's possible now because the Coyotes found a way to win a game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. If they didn't pull out a 5-4 win, it's fair to wonder how a team trying to establish chemistry and gain experience all at the same time would react to failing to earn a single point on a season-high six-game road trip this early into the season.

Losing has a way of taking the soul out of the game. Winning one game, as Arizona did here to stop a five-game losing streak, can ease the tension and reignite the passion.

"That's exactly it," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "When they start to pile up, you start to feel like, 'Oh my goodness, this is hard,' but you're never as good as you think you are when you're winning, and you're never as bad as you think you are when you're losing. You've got to try to find that balance, and hopefully we can take the next step and string together a few."

The Coyotes are one of the NHL's most interesting experiments this season. They feature seven players age 21 or younger and 12 players who are 25 or younger. They have 12 players who weren't on their roster last season, including nine who dressed Thursday.

Video: ARI@PHI: Ekman-Larsson spins, scores through traffic

They are fresh, new, young and somewhat inexperienced with five rookies, and yet they have to find ways to win games in the toughest league in the world because if they don't, it'll turn embarrassing and that's a hard way to learn.

The challenge was too great for the Coyotes in their first five games on the road trip. They were blown out by the Ottawa Senators (7-4) and Montreal Canadiens (5-2), and then lost three close games to the New York Islanders (3-2), New York Rangers (3-2) and New Jersey Devils (5-3).

They didn't feel embarrassed or ashamed, but they were starting to wonder when it would turn, or worse yet, if it would.

Prior to playing the Flyers, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson commented on the pressure to win just to avoid an 0-for-6 road trip.

"This is going to be a huge game for us," he said. "We need some space to really focus on what we have to do better, and I think a win will help that, help us calm down so we can focus on small details instead of being frustrated looking at the big picture. This game is huge for us."

They came out and played like it was in the first period, establishing a 2-0 lead on goals from forward Jamie McGinn and Ekman-Larsson. It was Arizona's first two-goal lead of the trip.

That didn't last.

The Flyers responded with two goals in the second to send the game into the third period tied 2-2. Arizona got away with giving Philadelphia three power plays in the first period; it didn't get away with the same thing in the second.

Video: ARI@PHI: Schenn dives to poke in loose puck for PPG

Flyers forward Brayden Schenn scored a game-tying power play goal at 15:00 after a would-be goal from Coyotes forward Jordan Martinook was erased because Laurent Dauphin was guilty of goaltender interference, the minor penalty that led to Schenn's goal.

"We went down a little bit in the second, and they came out harder," Ekman-Larsson said. "We should expect that after a first period like that. But at the same time, it's good that we stayed in the game and found a way to win this one. I think it's something we can build on."

And that's why this road trip has a chance to become an important moment in the Coyotes season. They're not expected to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the internal expectation is for them to improve on a game-to-game basis.

As crazy as it may sound because of a 1-5-0 road trip, the Coyotes did show improvement from start to finish.

They offered at least some proof of that in the third period, when they scored twice in the first 8:10 to take a 4-2 lead and responded to a Flyers goal with one of their own before allowing a late and, fortunately for them, meaningless power-play goal.

Video: ARI@PHI: White puts puck in off Mason from goal line

"This trip, we learned a lot about our team, we learned a lot about individual players, learned a lot about how we have to play," coach Dave Tippett said. "And like the old saying, adversity makes you stronger. It's a good quote. We gained some strength this trip. We'll go home and get ready for a good homestand."

The Coyotes will fly home Friday feeling relaxed and rejuvenated because of one win. Their soul is back in it, their passion reignited.

They start a three-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday (9 p.m. ET; FS-A, ALT2, NHL.TV). They play 12 of their next 20 games at Gila River Arena before going back out for a four-game road trip Dec. 12-17.

Maybe by then they'll be looking back on this road trip as a blessing in disguise.

It's only possible now because they found a way to win a game again.

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