The Arizona Coyotes had their share of critics when they announced they were signing a three-year contract to play their home games at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State University campus while plans for building a new state-of-the-art arena in Tempe, Ariz., were finalized.
But heading into Thursday night’s game with the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs, playing at the Mullett has been, well, a hair-raising experience.
The Coyotes, who were a dismal 11-27-3 in their final season at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., are 6-3-2 in their new digs. That includes wins over NHL points leader Boston, the New York Islanders, Los Angeles and the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Arizona is 5-1-1 in its last seven home contests and snapped Colorado’s four-game winning streak in convincing fashion with a 6-3 victory.
“We’re playing well here,” said forward Lawson Crouse, who had a goal and two assists against the Avalanche. “The atmosphere out there is fun to play in. Our fans give us a lot of energy, so we just have to keep the wins coming here.”
Arizona never trailed against Colorado, which had nine players — including stars Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin — out with injury. The Coyotes led 2-1 after the first period, 4-2 after two periods and built a 5-2 lead in the third on a goal by Michael Carcone. Carcone was making his season debut after getting called up from Tucson of the AHL, where he had a league-leading 42 points and 16 goals.
“I had a lot of energy,” Carcone admitted. “A little bit of nerves, which I think helped. Felt fresh. I love the atmosphere. I’d heard good things, and obviously it’s different when you experience it yourself. It was great.”
Arizona coach Andre Tourigny was pleased with the effort from his team as a whole.
“I think we played a solid game,” Tourigny said. “I think we were ready right from the get-go. We had a good forecheck. Power play got a big goal early. … I think we had a real good performance from a lot of guys.”
Toronto brings a three-game winning streak into the contest and is 12-2-1 over its last 15 games. The Maple Leafs come in off a 5-4 overtime victory at St. Louis on Tuesday with William Nylander, who has scored a goal in four straight games, netting the game-winner on a breakaway with 57 seconds left in the extra session. Calle Jarnkrok added a goal and two assists.
“As a general rule, you don’t get too critical of these games coming out of the break, even less so when you get two points,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “It’s a 5-4 game, so there’s a lot going on.
“I didn’t like when we were in control of the game in the second period with a two-goal lead and we gave it back. We never trailed. In that sense, on the road, that’s a job well done. I liked how our guys were resilient.”
–Field Level Media