If there were any doubts about Rick Tocchet’s ability as a head coach, this season should put those to rest. The Arizona Coyotes are an undertalented team which is ravaged by injuries and yet they are on the cusp of the playoff seedings because they simply don’t quit. They pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins for more than 60 minutes. The Penguins played an aggressive game but Arizona countered and scored a dirty goal to force overtime. Phil Kessel’s deflection goal became the game-winner in the Penguins a 3-2 OT win at the Gilla River Arena.
The Coyotes and Penguins battled for their transition games. Each team pushed the other with speed on the outside with a center driver. Each side also used their low-to-high game. That is good and bad for the Penguins. They played the game well but they missed opportunities to hold the puck longer and grind Arizona in the corners with cycles and puck possession.
The offense on the rush provided good scoring chances but the Penguins also turned the puck over 21 times. The could have simplified more and held onto the puck longer.
Sadly, special teams decided the game. Neither team was able to roll four lines until midway through the second period and so the game lacked real flow until the last 30 minutes.
“The first period was tough. It was all special teams and on our side, it was mostly on the penalty kill,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “It’s hard because it takes a lot of guys out of the game who don’t kill penalties.”
“Trying to re-engage (non-penalty killers) back in the game can be a challenge at times. But I thought the guys did a good job of keeping their focus.”