With the opportunity to climb a spot in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks instead slid backward.
Goals in the first and second periods put the Ducks behind a deficit they could never level as the Arizona Coyotes took a 4-2 win Wednesday night at Gila River Arena.
Anthony Duclair scored the back-breaking goal off a turnover won by Max Domi at the blue line, pushing the hosts lead back to two in the final frame with what proved to be the game winning goal. Five of Duclair's eight goals this season have come at the expense of the Ducks, with Domi bagging two assists in the game making all three of his career games against the Ducks two-point nights.
"It's a tough one right now. As a team we've gotta be better, don't really know what happened execution-wise that happened with them getting on top of us. It's something we're going to have to figure out and play better road hockey," Clayton Stoner said to Kent French on Prime Ticket after the Ducks dipped to 8-11-4 for the season.
The Coyotes have won all three meetings with Anaheim this season, leaving Anaheim with just one point from the divisional contests. Arizona is now three points ahead of the Ducks, and with two games in hand could open the edge as large as seven points. Vancouver entered the day in the third and final Pacific Division playoff spot, and knocked off Minnesota 3-2.
"We want to string wins together, we talked about building consistency and all that. There're a lot of games in this league, we've got another one on Friday, just have to put this one behind us and keep trying to find that consistency," said Stoner.
Arizona opened the game's scoring just 3:14 into the game when Michael Stone's slapper from the point eluded John Gibson with the help of a high screen. The teams combined for just 32 shot attempts in the period, with Anaheim holding a slight 5-3 scoring chance advantage but the Coyotes getting the only chance from a dangerous area.
For the game the Coyotes limited Duck access to the slot and made life easy for Mike Smith, who finished with 29 saves. Arizona out-attempted Anaheim 48-42 at even strength while posting a 23-12 scoring chance and 11-5 high danger chance advantage.
Over the entire run of the game the Ducks managed just six high danger scoring chances and got only five shots from that area on net. Conversely Gibson faced 12 high danger shots and made 10 of his 30 stops for the game from there.
Antoine Vermette scored his first of two goals for the game in the second period with the Coyotes on the power play. Gibson made the initial save on a Mikkel Boedker shot with his right toe, but left the rebound for the crashing Vermette to slide home and extend the advantage to 2-0. Vermette's second was an empty-netter to seal the result with just over a minute remaining.
In the third period Sami Vatanen spurred the Anaheim offense to life, setting up a power play goal with a shot from straight-away at the blue line that clipped off Ryan Kesler's hip past Smith 38 seconds in to the period. Vatanen again drew the Ducks within one on another power play, taking a pass from Cam Fowler at the offensive blue line along the near wall and bull rushing the net, shoveling a backhander home to make it 3-2 at the 7:47 mark. Fowler's assist moved him in to second place by himself amongst defenseman, his 127th helper in an Anaheim sweater.
But between the bursts of Vatanen brilliance a turnover by Patrick Maroon exiting the zone proved fatal. A backhander to the defensive blue line was a touch too far for Mike Santorelli, allowing Domi to intercept and find Duclair behind the rush-joining defenders Fowler and Kevin Bieksa for a draw-to-backhand goal.
"We're frustrated, but at the same time it's coming from the right place. We had high hopes of taking two points tonight, but [there are] lots of games and you have to stay as even keel as possible," said Stoner.
Anaheim hosts their annual Black Friday matinee at Honda Center against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday at 2 PM PT.