Coyotes face Senators going for fourth straight win
GLENDALE, Ariz.-Sometimes winning a game depends not on how you're playing or where you're playing, but when you're playing.
And right now doesn't appear to be the best time to be playing the Arizona Coyotes. The Tampa Bay Lightning already found that out, and now the Ottawa Senators must contend with an opponent that's playing its best hockey in seasons.
The Coyotes (5-5-0) were shut out three times while losing four of their first five games, an all-too-reminiscent beginning much like that of their 0-10-1 start a season ago. But they've since starting scoring goals - and winning - and they'll go for their fourth consecutive victory and fifth in six games against the Senators (4-4-2) on Tuesday at Gila River Arena.
The Coyotes had only one four-game winning streak last season, from Feb. 12-17.
"In the beginning (of the season), a lot of games we lost we played good, structured hockey and kept teams to low scores and low shots on nets but we just weren't scoring," forward Michael Grabner said. "The puck's going in for a lot of guys now and it makes it a lot easier ... a lot easier to be confident."
Arizona caught the Lightning at the right time Saturday, playing the second half of a difficult back-to-back without injured Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman and forward Ondrej Palat. The result was a 7-1 Coyotes victory that included two more short-handed goals, both by Grabner, giving them four such goals in two games - by most by an NHL team since the New York Islanders also scored four in 2000.
"We're No. 2 (in penalty-killing) and we're taking pride in it, which is nice," said coach Rick Tocchet, whose team has scored 22 goals in the past five games. "A long way to go, but I like the way they're doing it."
"We've got a lot of veteran guys, guys who have killed (penalties) a lot," said defenseman Alex Goligoski, who has a goal and two assists in the last two games. "We're going out there, going through our reads, and stuff's been working out - and we're burying pucks, too."
Especially second-year forward Clayton Keller, who has five goals in the past five games. He leads the team with seven points in two games. Thomas Chabot leads the Senators with 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists) in 10 games.
The Coyotes are playing the third game of a five-game homestand having outscored Vancouver (4-1) and Tampa Bay (7-1) by a combined 11-2 in the first two games. Both opponents were coming off games against Vegas the night before.
"Obviously, it was a tough schedule," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said.
But an advantageous one for the Coyotes. Then again, maybe the NHL schedule makers owed Arizona a break after giving them 21 road games among their first 33 games last season.
Ottawa is 0-1-1 so far on a three-game road trip, but center Matt Duchene prefers to look at the upside.
"It's a big point (at Vegas) and we're staying at .500," said Duchene, who has four goals and seven assists in 10 games. "If we get a win at Arizona it's a solid road trip and we'll go back home and get ready for the next challenge."