Coyotes top Panthers on emotional night at Mullett Arena
That’s a win that won’t soon be forgotten.
Lawson Crouse, Nick Ritchie, and Clayton Keller scored, Karel Vejmelka made 41 saves, and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 on Nov. 1 for their first win at Mullett Arena.
Colin White scored for the Panthers, while goalie Spencer Knight made 18 saves in his second consecutive start.
The win came on the same evening the Coyotes held their annual Hockey Fights Cancer night, making for an emotional victory in front of their fans.
Arizona honored vice president of hockey development Matt Shott, who passed away from the disease in December 2021, with both a pregame video and a commemorative puck drop before the game. Shott’s mom, Shelley, and brother, Trevor, dropped the puck during the ceremony.
“It’s one year since Matt passed away, and he was a big piece for our organization,” Coyotes head coach André Tourigny said. “That was cool to get the first win on a night like that, where he was honored.”
On the ice, the Coyotes laid it all on the line throughout the game en route to their first home victory. Vejmelka’s 41 saves were the second-most he’s made in a game this season, and he was consistently backed up by teammates that were blocking any shots they could get in front of.
Arizona finished with 22 blocked shots, compared to Florida’s eight.
“They have a really good team offensively, they have a lot of great players and forecheck, but we knew how we wanted to play, so I think it was really hard to play against us,” Vejmelka said. “We played a really good game tonight defensively.”
Tourigny agreed and has been encouraged by the improvement Arizona has shown throughout the young season. The Coyotes had lost two straight one-goal games before Tuesday’s win.
“A lot of guys blocked shots tonight, and paid the price,” he said. “Right now, we all have the smile, but at the same time, I like the fact we all have the smile, but it’s not like we won the Stanley Cup. The guys expect if we play with that urgency, they expect results, and that’s a good sign.”
White opened the scoring at 8:24 of the second period, redirecting Josh Mahura‘s shot past Vejmelka to give the Panthers an early lead. It was the only goal Florida would score in the frame, despite outshooting the Coyotes 16-3.
Crouse answered with a power-play goal at 13:47 of the period, keeping the team’s play with the man advantage scorching hot.
The Coyotes weren’t done, either.
Ritchie scored the go-ahead goal at 8:55 of the third period to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead, yet again with the man advantage. Arizona now has 11 power-play goals in just nine games this season, a stark contrast to last year, when it took 30 games to record that same number.
“We went in the third and played a simple game with a tie game and got a chance on the power play and scored, and I think that’s probably the difference in the game,” Ritchie said. “We get two power-play goals, our penalty kill’s good, and we kind of locked them up the rest of the game.”
The Coyotes’ power play is ranked third in the league after finishing 30th just one season ago.
Keller iced the game with an empty-net goal to seal the win and close out a special night at Mullett Arena.
“It was pretty cool tonight,” Ritchie said. “The crowd was standing for us in the last minute of the game, and it was loud in here for a small barn. It feels good, and we want to do more of that at home.”
“Let’s be honest, our goalie stopped 41 pucks, our PK shut down a team like Florida, and your power play scores two goals, that’s a good recipe,” Tourigny added. “I hope we can copy and paste it a few times.”
— Patrick Brown/ArizonaCoyotes.com
(November 2, 2022)