The Arizona Coyotes are good?
Well, not really in the grand scheme of things. Tuesday night they were, as they capitalized on the tired Colorado Avalanche 6-3. In their first trip to Mullett Arena, the Avs did not bring their full potential with them and it cost them in the end.
Colorado was on the back foot early and was punished quickly by Shane Gostisbehere, who quickly made it a 1-0 game. Just as quickly, however, Evan Rodrigues answered right back on the power play to even it up again.
However, this did not fluster Arizona. While the game was even for a bit, Lawson Crouse broke the deadlock with a beautiful backhand goal over the shoulder of Alexandar Georgiev to give his team the lead back. It was the start of an onslaught of chances from the Yotes which saw the Avs lucky to only be down by one at the break.
Colorado would come out flying in the period, with Cale Makar finding the iron early on. New man Denis Malgin broke in with his speed on a breakaway but was stopped by Connor Ingram.
Despite leading the rushes, the Avs would give up yet another to Nick Schmaltz, who collected the puck right at the edge of the crease off a lucky bounce to beat Georgiev on the power play. It made it 3-1 and seemed more so than ever like a trap game for the Avs.
But, the tides changed quickly. Makar would receive a bullet of a cross-ice pass from J.T. Compher who found the twine past a lunging Ingram to make it 3-2. Just seconds later, Mikko Rantanen flew into the zone, shot a puck which was stopped, and then hit his own rebound out of the air like a baseball bat and into the net to tie it at three. However, it was very short-lived as the Coyotes successfully challenged for offsides.
However, it did not take the fight out of Colorado. Andrew Cogliano was robbed at the far side by a sprawling Ingram, and there were several pucks scattered around the crease but couldn’t cross the line. Yet again, Arizona made them pay as J.J. Moser made it 4-2 in the final minutes.
Despite a couple of early chances from Ben Meyers and Compher, the game was too far out of reach for the Avs. Yet again, defensive lapses from Erik Johnson left Sam Girard exposed on a 3-on-1, and the Yotes made them pay with Michael Carcone finishing a tic-tac-toe play.
While the game looked to be over, Rantanen made sure to have people think otherwise. He tipped a nice shot just beyond the circle past Ingram off a Johnson shot, to give Colorado a little bit of life in the third period now only down 5-3.
But, the Avs had lost their steam. Tired legs and missed opportunities continued, and the same streaky rush which appeared in the second period was not found for the rest of the game. Colorado had their chances but did not convert in the end. Clayton Keller put in an empty net goal to make sure there were no crazy antics to end an already crazy scoreline against the Coyotes, who wound up on top 6-3.
This was a trap game and one to easily forget and move on for the Avs. They’d won four straight games entering this matchup, but none of the four wins were in dominating as we are used to. With the Avs changing plans last-minute to practice at home and then fly to Arizona less than 12 hours before puck drop, it was always going to be difficult coming into a new environment and adjusting quickly to make things go your way.
While Rantanen continued to score, so did Rodrigues, Ever since his own return from injury, he has done nicely with two goals and assists to his name. He tacked on another goal Tuesday and has been a pleasant surprise of scoring while getting plenty of attention along the way in his first year in burgundy and blue.
The busy stretch of December is coming to a close. In the busiest month of the year against some really good teams, the Avs have done alright despite the circumstances they face. They had the fourth-best win percentage coming into Tuesday night’s game in franchise history since relocating from Quebec and boast a 7-5-1 record in the month. It could be far worse, and with two games to go to finish 2022, we’ll see how it all ends up.
One of those two games to end the year is the start of a three-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. MT.