With a five-game losing streak behind them, the New Jersey Devils face a rare opportunity for consecutive victories when they travel to face the Arizona Coyotes at Glendale, Ariz., in a matchup of two of the worst teams in the NHL.
The Devils (25-41-6, 56 points) moved further away from the Eastern Conference basement with a 3-1 victory on the road against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. The Devils rallied with three goals in the final 16 minutes to complicate the Stars’ playoff aspirations.
Ty Smith tied the game with a goal early in the final period and an emphatic exclamation point was put on the proceedings when Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha each scored 10 seconds apart late in the game.
New Jersey goalie Nico Daws made life miserable for Dallas with 27 saves.
Hischier’s impressive individual effort started when he took the puck from Kevin Bahl at the left faceoff circle, skated around the net and screeched to a halt to shake Tyler Seguin. He then spun into the crease, where his shot bounced off goalie Jake Oettinger and into the net.
Zacha scored immediately after the faceoff as the Stars were preparing to get Oettinger off the ice in order to create a man advantage in the final minute.
“We really did a good job this game (playing) 60 minutes, not just 20, not just 40,” Hischier said. “This time, we really (dug) in, we were competing. Like I’ve always been talking about, just not playing 40 minutes. Sixty solid minutes and we got rewarded at the end.”
The ability to play a full game has been fleeting. Before the victory, New Jersey had lost 10 of their last 12, with only the Montreal Canadiens below them in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Coyotes also know losing skids well. Arizona is also on a slide where it has dropped 10 of 12, including the last three in a row.
The Coyotes have just six games remaining in their arena in Glendale before moving to a far more intimate venue in Tempe, Ariz., next season. They are not exactly sending off the venue with a bang, having lost four of their last five home games.
The most recent defeat was a 6-1 drubbing on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“They played extremely well, so a lot of credit to them,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “It was really tough for us to sustain possession and make a few plays in a row on the puck. That’s one of the best performances from an opponent we’ve had.”
The problem is that the Coyotes have been making everybody look like a top opponent of late. In their last five defeats, the Coyotes have given up at least five goals in all five and have been outscored by a combined 27-4.
The Coyotes are just 1-4 since points leader Clayton Keller was lost for the season with a fractured leg on March 30. Arizona actually won that game, 5-2 over the San Jose Sharks.
–Field Level Media