Retooled line leads Ducks past Coyotes
Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle only wishes every move he makes paid off as quickly and as decisively as the game-altering decision he made Sunday.
Cam Fowler scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, and a streaking Rickard Rakell scored two more goals, leading the Ducks past the Arizona Coyotes 5-2 in Anaheim, Calif.
Anaheim (18-14-8) won its fourth in five games but only its 10th in 21 home games.
Ducks goaltender John Gibson made 23 saves, and Anaheim got three goals in the final nine minutes.
Arizona dropped its second in a row and 10th in 12 games. The Coyotes are 9-27-5 at the midpoint of coach Rick Tocchet’s first season.
Carlyle’s pregame move of shifting Antoine Vermette from fourth-line center to right wing on the Rakell-Ryan Getzlaf No. 1 line paid off immediately. The three combined for seven points.
“We were trying to find balance in the lineup and put people in places where they’re comfortable ... and can have success,” Carlyle said. “When you have as much depth as possible in your forward lines, you have a chance to spread minutes out. We’re kind of a work in progress.”
About five minutes after Arizona’s Clayton Keller tied the score at 2-2 in the third, Fowler found himself undefended above the circles. He beat goaltender Antti Raanta at 11:51 of the third with a hard wrist shot created by Jakob Silfverberg’s pass from behind the goal line.
Coyotes forward Josh Archibald backed off his coverage of Fowler as the teams battled for the puck behind the net.
Fowler said it was a case of simply shooting the puck hard rather than worrying about trying to aim it.
“My focus was putting it through him (Raanta) and not picking spots,” Fowler said.
Tocchet said it simply was a case of the Coyotes making yet another key mistake at the wrong time.
“We had a couple of breakdowns and crucial mistakes at the wrong time and it’s in our net, and that seems to be the story of this team,” Tocchet said. “We have five or six chances and miss the net, and Fowler has one chance and, boom, it’s in the net.”
Silfverberg put the game away by scoring his 10th of the season with 2:47 remaining, with Fowler and Gibson assisting. Vermette added an empty-net goal with 57 seconds to play for his third point of the game.
“It was a lot of fun. They’re great players and they make a lot of room,” Vermette said of playing with Getzlaf and Rakell. “I thought we fed off each other, finding lanes and making plays with speed. I thought it was a good night. ... You want to contribute and chip in and make an impact, and tonight we needed scoring.”
Rakell opened the scoring with his team-high 13th of the season, off a shot turned aside by Raanta (21 saves) before deflecting off defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s skate and into the net with 4:02 gone.
Arizona, coming off a 7-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, came back with only its second goal in its last 16 power-play chances when defenseman Alex Goligoski, between the circles, set up Brendan Perlini at the top of the right circle for a hard shot that scooted along the ice and past Gibson at 11:04.
“I tried to get it to the net quick and it slid all the way on the ice, but I’ll take it,” Perlini said.
As the Coyotes have done all season, they gave up a goal almost as quickly as they scored one. Only 43 seconds later, Getzlaf dug out the puck behind the net and fed Rakell, who was open in the right circle for a one-timer and his sixth goal during a five-game goal-scoring streak. Rakell has a team-high 14 goals.
Keller tied it at 6:52 of the third with Arizona’s second power-play goal of the game, a deflection of Derek Stepan’s shot after Stepan took the puck away from Anaheim’s Adam Henrique. Keller has a team-high 14 goals and three goals during an eight-game scoring streak.
NOTES: Coyotes D Niklas Hjalmarsson, out since Nov. 28 with an upper-body injury, is practicing again and is close to returning, but did not play. ... The Coyotes played a road-heavy schedule during the first half of the season, but now return home to play the Nashville Predators (Thursday) and the New York Rangers (Saturday) ahead of their bye week. ... Arizona couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead and lost its season opener 5-4 at Anaheim on Oct. 5, Rick Tocchet’s first game as the Coyotes’ coach. ... Anaheim didn’t go on the power play until Coyotes LW Jordan Martinook took a hooking penalty 1:24 into the third period. ... The Ducks play their next five on the road.