Coyotes surging behind massive scoring flurry

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes lost four of their first five games, three by shutout.

Another lost season in the desert apparently on the way.

The thing about those early games, though, is they were close, unlike the start of last season. The Coyotes played well, just couldn’t seem to catch the right break or get pucks to find the net.

Once the pucks started going in, the Coyotes couldn’t seem to miss.

Behind a scoring flurry that would have been unthinkable on previous teams, Arizona is off to its best 11-game start (6-5-0) since 2013-14.

”I really like all our games; we played well in all of them, we competed well,” Coyotes forward Derek Stepan said. ”Yeah, we made some mistakes that cost us some goals early on, but we’re learning quickly.”

It’s been a long-arching curve.

The Coyotes have struggled since reaching the 2012 Western Conference finals, seeming to be in perpetual rebuilding mode. Arizona got last season off to a miserable start, needing 12 games to win for the first time to fall out of playoff contention before the season’s first month was over.

The Coyotes played better the last two months of the 2017-18 season and hoped it would carry over into this season.

It did not, at least early.

Arizona opened the season with a pair of shutout losses and had four goals its first five games – three of those in its lone win.

Then something clicked.

The Coyotes beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on the road on Oct. 18 and, after a 5-3 loss at Winnipeg, have been one of the NHL’s hottest teams.

With Tuesday night’s 5-1 home win over Ottawa, the Coyotes have outscored opponents 20-4 during a four-game winning streak. Arizona has 27 goals over a six-game span, a first for the franchise since 2006-07.

”The guys were sticking with it and practicing like the goals would come,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. ”You have to have that mentality in this league. We’ve got good mojo right now and we don’t want to wreck it.”

Arizona has been among the league leaders in shots per game since the start of the season and the shooting percentage has dramatically increased since the minuscule 1.6 to start the season.

The Coyotes seemed to get some bad breaks on shots early in the season, hitting posts and crossbars, having pucks squirt out of their reach in the offensive zone. They also didn’t seem to create their own luck by getting traffic in front of the crease and putting shots in spots where goalies could make easy saves.

The breaks have been coming the past few games, such as Stepan’s blue line, short-handed goal that skittered off the ice and through Ottawa goalie Mike Condon‘s pads .

Arizona also has been creating some of that luck with hard, smart play, getting traffic in front of opposing goaltenders and more precise shooting.

”You earn your bounces,” Stepan said. ”We had some bounces going the other way early on in the year, now they’re starting to go our way and in a few weeks, they’re going to come back the other way. Good teams find ways to win any given night regardless of the bounces.”

With the scoring boost, the Coyotes have continued to play stingy defense, the one area that helped them get through the difficult times in the past.

Arizona has limited good chances against and its goalies, Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper, have been superb, combining to give the Coyotes the NHL’s best goals-against average at 1.91. Raanta, healthy after an injury-filled first season in the desert, is fourth in the NHL with a 1.99 goals-against average.

The Coyotes also have the NHL’s second-best penalty kill at 90.6 percent and have a league-high six short-handed goals to three power-play goals allowed. Stepan’s goal against Ottawa gave Arizona short-handed goals in three straight games for the second time in franchise history (1985). The Coyotes are 11th NHL team since 1933 to have five short-handed goals in three games.

”When we’re sticking with our game plan and everybody is dialed in, we’re a really good team,” Raanta said. ”As a goalie, it’s a dream to play behind that team.”

Especially when they’re scoring goals, as they are now.

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Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.