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Hall makes difference in Coyotes debut in victory against Sharks

Hustles to get puck late in game, has assist on winning goal

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

SAN JOSE -- This is why the Arizona Coyotes acquired forward Taylor Hall: to add offense, to make a difference.

Here was Hall in his Coyotes debut, playing the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Tuesday, when the puck skidded down the right-wing boards into the San Jose end late in the third period of a tie game.

Hall hustled down the ice and tried to muscle past Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon. Hall wobbled off balance but stayed on his skates. As Dillon slammed into the corner boards, Hall gathered the puck along the end boards and backhanded a pass into the left circle.

Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson one-timed the puck toward the net, and it bounced off Dillon in front and past Sharks goalie Aaron Dell at 17:23. Arizona won 3-2 and stayed in first place in the Pacific Division.

"Just a forecheck play, trying to win a one-on-one battle and get possession of the puck," Hall said. "It's late in the game, and you're trying to make more of the safe play than the risky one. Got it in their end, won a battle and was able to feed [Ekman-Larsson]. Got a break there."

Video: ARI@SJS: Ekman-Larsson nets goal after Hall's pass

It's amazing Hall had the edge and energy. For most of the game he looked like someone who hadn't played in a week and hadn't slept much the night before, which, of course, he was.

Hall's last game was with the New Jersey Devils at the Dallas Stars on Dec. 10. The Devils scratched him at the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 13 and at Arizona on Dec. 14 as a precaution while working on a trade.

After the Devils traded Hall Monday afternoon, he flew overnight to San Jose on a private plane sent by Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway. He didn't arrive until 7:30 a.m. PT. He had breakfast, rode the bus, skated for about 15 minutes with about a dozen of his new teammates, went back to the hotel and took a pregame nap.

"I think he maybe had four hours' sleep," coach Rick Tocchet said.

Hall pulled on No. 91, signifying his birth year, a number he had never worn before, and went through a new warmup routine. He played left wing on a line with center Christian Dvorak and forward Phil Kessel, and on the first power play unit with Ekman-Larsson, Dvorak, Kessel and center Clayton Keller. In 18:22 of ice time, he had one shot on goal.

"I didn't feel great, but that's hockey," Hall said. "I just wanted to be a part of the group, get that first game kind of over with. It's great to get a win. That's what we're here to do. It wasn't pretty, but they're not always going to be masterpieces. Find a way to make an impact. Find a way to win a game."

The Coyotes were tied for 24th in the NHL in scoring (2.69 goals per game) at the time of the trade. They needed a player like Hall, who won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 2017-18, to help them generate three goals instead of two like he did here. 

"He does it all, right?" Ekman-Larsson said. "It's not one thing that I would say that he's good at. It's a lot of things, and he showed it. Like, good forecheck, good speed, made a good play under pressure. So yeah, I think we're going to see a lot of that."

Video: Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes top Sharks in Hall's debut

The Coyotes present a real coyote pelt to the player of the game after wins. They presented it to Hall on Tuesday, and he made a little speech.

"I just said it's nice to be part of this group," Hall said. "It seems like a great group of guys, guys that enjoy fighting for each other and playing for each other, and that's really what you want. It's nice that I'm not being traded here at the deadline. There's lots of time to get used to the group and find your role and find your place in the dressing room, so I'm excited for it."

Hall will be introduced at a press conference at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, on Wednesday and make his home debut against the Minnesota Wild there on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNO, FS-A, FS-A PLUS, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV).

"Just got to keep building, keep getting better," Hall said. "If I had a goal personally, it would be to improve every game and you find your spot in the lineup and find what the team needs you to bring every night."

This was a good start.

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