Power-play strong Avalanche face stingy Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nobody can seem to stop the Colorado Avalanche’s power play these days.

Nobody can seem to score when the Arizona Coyotes‘ penalty-killing unit is on the ice these days – except the Coyotes themselves.

The Avalanche and Coyotes are trending in opposite directions, with Colorado gaining a point in each of its last five games (4-0-1) and Arizona losing two straight, three of four and six of eight. Two of the Coyotes’ losses were in overtime.

But it’s likely special teams will decide the outcome when the two Western Conference teams meet Friday at Gila River Arena, where the Coyotes have lost their last two games and three of four.

The Avalanche (11-6-4) scored three power plays during a 7-3 road win over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday and now lead the NHL by converting 32.9 percent (23-of-70) of their power play opportunities. Colorado was 3-for-4 with the man advantage and is 8-for-11 in its past four games and 9-for-13 in its past five games.

Colorado is 12-for-24 (50 percent) on the power play this month.

“When our power play is clicking like that, it feels good and, obviously, it can win you games,” Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog said. “Special teams, we know how important they can be, and we’re going to need that moving forward.”

But no team is harder to score against even with an extra skater on the ice than the Coyotes.

Arizona (9-9-2) has allowed an NHL-low five power-play goals in 20 games while scoring a league-leading 10 shorthanded goals. The Coyotes are the first team in NHL history to be plus-5 on the penalty kill at any point in a season. Overall, Arizona has killed off 57 of 62 opposition power plays (91.9 percent).

But those successful penalty kills aren’t translating into wins for the Coyotes, who are 2-4-2 since winning five in a row, including 1-2-1 on home ice. Part of the reason is a power play that’s as inefficient as the Coyotes’ penalty-killing unit is efficient, ranking in a tie for 28th on the power play (10-for-64, 15.6 percent).

Arizona couldn’t score on a power play that ended the third period carried over into the first five seconds of overtime Wednesday, and the Coyotes ended up losing to the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Max Pacioretty’s second goal of the game, at 3:36 of overtime. Vegas controlled the puck nearly the entire extra period.

“In overtime, we never had the puck,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said.

Derek Stepan scored twice, including a power-play goal in the third period that made it 2-2, but Arizona can’t seem to gain any consistency with that power-play unit.

“Honestly, the biggest thing was we scored, it doesn’t matter how it gets done, we scored a big goal to give our team a chance to win the game,” Stepan said. “The power play, we’ve had a lot of discussions about it lately and we go forward with that.”

Tocchet apparently was concerned enough that he held practice on Thanksgiving in advance of the second of three Coyotes home games in five days.

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (lower-body injury) could return after missing the last eight games. Darcy Kuemper is 2-4-2 while starting every game since Raanta was hurt.

Regardless of who is in goal, the Coyotes will be challenged to contain Colorado’s efficient offense, which has scored six or more goals five times this season. Forwards Mikko Rantanen (34 points, eight goals) and Nathan MacKinnon (31 points, 14 goals) are the top two scorers in the league.

Coyotes forward Clayton Keller hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games since Oct. 27 after scoring five goals in five games.