Coyotes squander 2-0 lead, suffer 7th straight loss
GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Reimer kept it close with save after save, and the Florida Panthers finally rewarded their goaltender.
Mike Matheson gave Florida the lead early in the third period and the Panthers rallied from two goals down to beat Arizona 3-2 on Tuesday night, handing the slumping Coyotes their seventh straight defeat.
Matheson got free while being hooked from behind and sent the puck past goalie Antti Raanta with 14:19 to play. Reimer stopped 39 shots, and the Panthers took advantage of Arizona miscues in the defensive zone.
“As a goalie, you’re trying to be back there and help the guys out,” Reimer said. “That’s the job description. The guys got going and came up with some huge goals.”
Raanta didn’t allow a goal for almost 40 minutes, but Florida took control by scoring three times in a six-minute span over the second and third periods. Nick Bjugstad and Denis Malgin also scored for the Panthers, who ended a three-game losing streak. Evgenii Dadonov had two assists.
Christian Fischer: We came out laid an egg in the third period pic.twitter.com/KgODgZkxd7
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) December 20, 2017
Christian Fischer and Derek Stepan scored, and Raanta made 23 saves for the Coyotes.
Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said he was embarrassed for the fans.
“It’s probably the most disappointed I have been with the team all year,” he said. “I just don’t understand how we have the game in hand and all of a sudden it just turns. We will get it right. We are going to weed some people out of here eventually and get this thing right.”
Arizona outshot the Panthers 22-7 in the first period, and three minor penalties — two on Florida — were called in a span of 28 seconds. In a 4-on-4 situation, Fischer deflected Clayton Keller’s shot into the net at 15:51 to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead.
It was Fischer’s eighth goal of the season and first this month.
The 22 shots in a period were a season high for Arizona.
Reimer kept the Coyotes from taking a two-goal lead, for the moment, with a glove save on Alex Goligoski’s try from right in front early in the second. Later in the period, he stretched his right leg to make a pad save on a breakaway by Keller.
“Reimer is playing so good right now … if you make the odd mistake, he is coming up with the save,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.
But Reimer couldn’t stop Stepan’s backhand of a loose puck with 1:46 left in the second, giving the Coyotes a 2-0 advantage.
The Panthers cut the lead in half when Derek Mackenzie won a faceoff in the Coyotes zone and passed to Bjugstad. His shot eluded traffic and Raanta 10 seconds before the second-period horn.
“One shot kind of changed the whole thing,” Raanta said. “When we have the momentum, we need to finish the game.”
Bjugstad said the goal gave the Panthers confidence.
“We came in (for the second intermission) and there was no frustration, really,” he said. “We knew we had some momentum.”
Malgin was wide open for his goal after a pass from Dadonov at 3:37 of the third. Seconds later, with 16:06 left, Raanta thwarted Colton Sceviour’s breakaway attempt to keep the game deadlocked.
But then Matheson broke the tie, and the Panthers held on the rest of the way.
Former Coyote Keith Yandle served four penalty minutes for two minors. New Coyotes forward Nick Merkley made his NHL debut.
NOTES: The Coyotes acquired forward Josh Archibald and G Sean Maguire from Pittsburgh for goalie Michael Leighton. Archibald reported to the Coyotes and was a scratch Tuesday night. Archibald has scored three goals in 14 career games with the Penguins. … The Coyotes assigned C Dylan Strome to Tucson of the American Hockey League. Strome, the third pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, has scored one goal in 11 games with the Coyotes this season. … Arizona will play in Gila River Arena, its current home, next season on a lease extension. “We are absolutely planning to play next season at Gila River Arena and are focused on building a winning hockey team, positively contributing to our community, and achieving success in all aspects of our business,” chief operating officer Ahron Cohen said in a statement provided by the team. … The announced attendance of 10,203 was the lowest of the season at home for Arizona. … Panthers G Roberto Luongo missed his seventh game with a lower-body injury.
Coyotes: Host the Washington Capitals on Friday night.