Glendale, Ariz. – The Arizona Coyotes certainly knew what they were getting into in the final minutes of their 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, but that doesn’t mean that any of them are happy about it.
The Pacific Division club – not yet mathematically eliminated from the post-season, but certainly not in the position to see anything but a lottery pick barring a Hail Mary end to the year – went up 2-0 in the second period, despite being outpossessed and outshot through the first 40 minutes of play.
The result? A chippy gongshow to round out the final 20 minutes against a team currently in the thick of the Eastern Conference post-season race, including injuries to both teams’ captains and to defenseman Michael Stone.
“You still have to show the young guys how it’s done, and that’s just how it goes,” said Martin Hanzal, referring to the chippy third period – including his own check of Flyers captain Claude Giroux with just under four minutes left to play. “You mess with our captain, [the physical game following] is just usually how it goes.”
Although Hanzal certainly didn’t shy away from admitting that he and the team had been physical following a disastrous hit to Coyotes captain Shane Doan, he wasn’t expecting the punishment he got on the hit against Giroux – which ended up being a five minute boarding major and a game misconduct.
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett wasn’t expecting the punishment for the play, either.
“I have no idea how one hit gets that result and the other gets nothing,” Tippett said during his post-game comments.
The hit that got nothing, of course, was the hit on Doan earlier in the third period.
A clean check from Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas was followed up by a questionable second play just moments later, where the blue liner used his arm and hip to assert pressure on the 39-year-old captain’s head along the boards. Doan had trouble getting up after the hit and spent the rest of the game in the locker room as a precaution against head injuries.
While Tippett did say that he expects the league will be good about reviewing the Gudas hit, though, he was slightly less sympathetic to the game’s other controversial call – one that earned his team their game-winning goal, and one that he’d certainly been on the wrong end of at another point this season.
The Coyotes’ second goal of the night, scored by defenseman Michael Stone, was scored on a wide-open net following a unique sequence of events for Flyers netminder Steve Mason.
A shoving match between Max Domi and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning in front of the net saw Manning push Domi into Mason ahead of the goal. Although it wasn’t ruled goaltender interference, the initial reaction from Mason on the goal – which was scored while he was facing the opposite side of the net – was certainly curious;he later explained that his mask had been knocked loose and he was unable to see on the play.
This happened to the Coyotes earlier in the season as well, when Coyotes goaltender Louis Domingue saw his mask knocked askew on a play by Los Angeles Kings forward Tanner Pearson.
When Domingue went to remove his mask and put it back on correctly, Kings winger Tyler Toffoli shot on the wide open net. The resulting goal was ruled as good; the Coyotes weren’t able to contest it, because Domingue had voluntarily taken his mask off.
Tippett said that goaltenders like Mason and Domingue have to keep playing through those moments, although Mason certainly didn’t make it sound that easy.
“My mask got pushed aside, and my chin guard got in my line of sight so I couldn’t see a thing,” said the netminder, who unfortunately missed out on earning two points for his club Saturday night.
“I didn’t have enough time to get it adjusted where I could see through… I’m not sure what the reasoning [for the call] was, but I couldn’t see a thing out of the mask.”
Regardless of the controversial goal and hit, the entire game had a playoff mentality for both teams–a good thing for the Coyotes, even if they aren’t likely looking at anything but an improvement in their standings compared to where they finished last year.
The positive from a playoff mentality for young players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, though, is quickly off-set with what the team may have lost in the game.
In addition to the hit on Doan – which should see the captain return to the lineup on Monday against the Calgary Flames, although it held him out of Saturday’s final minutes – the Coyotes could very easily be without Stone for the remainder of the season. The blue liner went down in a collision along the boards with Flyers forward Michael Raffl in the third period, and left the game with what looked like a leg injury that left the skater requiring assistance to get off the ice. Per Tippett, the team isn’t sure yet how serious the injury was, but it didn’t look good to him.
Without Stone in what could be the final handful of games this year, the team may need to re-think a strategy that GM Don Maloney said would leave their young prospects in the AHL for the remainder of the year. They could need to bring up a defenseman like Philip Samuelsson from the Springfield Falcons, once again depleting the blue line for their prospect team just as their youngest new players will be heading to the affiliate after their junior seasons end.
That’s certainly how the game goes, though; as Flyers coach Dave Hakstol put it, “that’s the nature of this race”. Although neither team has to be thrilled with how their night ended, they at the very least accept their respective outcomes.