Ekman-Larsson’s OT goal beats Panthers
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Justin Hodgman couldn’t stop smiling. After scoring in his debut after a long road to the NHL, it’s hard to blame him.
The Arizona Coyotes were pretty happy, too. Not only did they end a three-game losing streak, they played well at both ends before heading out on a long road trip.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored at 2:20 of overtime, Mike Smith stopped 23 shots, and the Coyotes rallied to beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Saturday night.
"We’re headed in the right direction," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.
Smith got it started, playing his second straight solid game, but earning the win this time after the Coyotes played well in front of him.
The 26-year-old Hodgman made the most of his NHL debut, ending Arizona’s scoreless streak of more than 127 minutes by scoring on a power play midway through the third period.
Ekman-Larsson had the perfect capper to what might be Arizona’s best all-around game of the season, one-timing a shot past Roberto Luongo on another power play for his second overtime goal of the season.
The win came at a good time. The Coyotes had gone 0-2-1 in their previous three games and are about to head out on a five-game trip.
"Everybody knew we needed to win this game," Ekman-Larsson said. "It was good to get the two points."
The Panthers weren’t bad, either, earning a point to close out their four-game road trip 2-0-2.
Luongo was sharp, stopping 39 shots, and Brandon Pirri scored in the third period to put Florida up.
The problem for the Panthers was penalties. Arizona had eight power-play chances and scored both its goals with a man advantage.
"We’ve got to be smarter," Luongo said. "Those are tough. We’ll kill some of those off, but especially in overtime it’s a tough kill. We weren’t able to get the job done."
The Panthers struggled offensively to open the season, scoring five goals in their first five games.
They have improved during their trip, scoring four goals in an overtime win over Colorado in their previous game to nearly double their goal total for the season (nine).
With three days off between games, the rested Panthers got off to a strong start, peppering Smith with three shots in the opening 67 seconds and creating numerous scoring chances in the first period.
Smith was able to stop Tomas Kopecky on a breakaway after Keith Yandle bobbled the puck in the second period, but had no chance on another turnover by the Coyotes defenseman early in the third.
Trying to clear the puck from behind the net, Yandle instead hit traffic with his pass, and the puck ended up right on Tomas Fleischmann’s stick. He fed it out front to Pirri, who skated freely between the circles and used a deke to set up a backhander for his second goal of the season.
"He’s a goal scorer and that’s what he does," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. "He’s playing well."
Arizona, which has had its own offensive problems, had a decent flow early, creating good chances.
Luongo was too good in the first two periods.
He made some difficult saves early and got some help late in the first period when Pirri cleared a puck that slipped behind him in the crease.
The Coyotes thought they had a goal early in the second period, but it was waved off after a review showed B.J. Crombeen’s stick was above the crossbar when he swatted in a rebound.
Hodgman came up with a big goal in the third period, though, one-timing a shot past Luongo after Lauri Korpikoski gathered a rebound off his own redirect and flipped it to the left circle.
He made Arizona’s roster out of training camp, but was a healthy scratch for two games before being sent back down. Called up on Friday, Hodgman kept his emotions in check and played a solid game, even before scoring the tying goal in the third period.
"It’s been a while, it’s been a long road being in Russia and everything," said Hodgman, who spent the past three seasons playing in Russia after numerous minor-league stops in North America. "It’s an unbelievable feeling."
NOTES: Arizona C Antoine Vermette played in his 400th straight game, the third-longest active streak in the NHL behind St. Louis’ Jay Bouwmeester (723) and Anaheim’s Andre Cogliano (547). … Panthers C Dave Bolland missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. … Arizona C Martin Hanzal missed his third straight with a lower-body injury, and RW Dave Moss is expected to be out at least a week because of an upper-body injury sustained Thursday against Minnesota.