Keller’s hat trick helps Coyotes bury Knights
Arizona right-winger Clayton Keller’s three goal performance helped fuel the Coyotes to a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights Sunday, Jan. 22. This marked the first of six straight road games for Vegas.
Keller scored less than two minutes into the second period and scored twice in the third period including an empty net goal to put the final touches on the victory.
“All three goals we gave up were 5-on-5 veteran center slot ice coverage that we just missed,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Tonight, three pucks that went in there, we just need to be there. We just need to be there to put those fires out and we weren’t. Game 49 this year in our system, we should know better. [Goalie] Logan Thompson] got hung out to dry because of our slot coverage.”
Sunday’s win was the first win in regulation for Arizona since Dec. 29 in what was a 6-3 win over Toronto. That makes it 12 games that Arizona went without a regulation win and during that 12 game stretch, the Coyotes were 0-11-1.
This loss for the Golden Knights means that their record now sits at 29-17-2 on the season, good for 60 points and a one-point Pacific Division lead over Seattle.
“We had chances but just couldn’t put them in,” defenseman Brayden McNabb siad. “They capitalized on their chances.”
It had been 20 days since the Golden Knights had played a game away from T-Mobile Arena. The last road game Vegas played before Sunday was Jan. 2 in what was a 3-2 win over the Avalanche in Ball Arena.
Vegas continues to head east for this four-game trip before the all-star break. The next time the Golden Knights will hit the ice is Tuesday when they take on the New Jersey Devils from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Puck drop for that game is set for 4 p.m. and can be seen on AT&T Sportsnet in Las Vegas or ESPN+ nationwide.
“This is an important trip for us,” McNabb said. “[We’ve got] three really good teams coming up so we gotta wash it. We haven’t been at our best and we need to find some consistency in our game, try to capitalize on opportunities, and play well defensively.
This will be the first of two meetings scheduled between Vegas and New Jersey with the second meeting taking place on Mar. 3 at T-Mobile Arena.
“Defensively, we need to be solid,” Cassidy said. “We’ve talked about it now, it’s gotten away from us lately and we’ll revisit it again. We better get it right against Jersey. They’re a very good offensive team so that’ll be the challenge.”
Going into Tuesday’s game, Vegas is 14-6 against Eastern Conference opponents this season. That game will also be the first of four straight versus teams out of the Eastern Conference.
The lone goal for Vegas in the game belonged to center Phil Kessel in the second period who trimmed a 2-0 deficit down to 2-1 heading into the final 20 minutes of play. Kessel’s goal leaves him now one shy of moving into a tie for 99th all-time in career NHL goals.
This was Kessel’s eighth goal of the season and it came via the power play, making it seven games in a row that Arizona has allowed a power play goal to the opposition. This snaps a four-game streak of no power play goals for Vegas where they went 0-for-6 on the man advantage before Kessel’s goal.
The Coyotes wasted little time finding the scoreboard as right-winger Dylan Guenther scored 1:59 into the game to establish an early 1-0 lead for the home team.
“We gave up one early and it’s tough to come back from those ones,” center Byron Froese said. “It takes the wind out of your sail.”
Arizona goaltender Karel Vejmelka beat out Thompson in the goalie battle in this one. Vejmelka finished the game with 35 saves on 36 shots faced for a final save percentage of .972. On the other end of the rink, Thompson saved 19 shots on 22 saves for a final save percentage of .864.
Thompson did also get the start Saturday night versus the Washington Capitals. Cassidy has made it known that he likes to play both Thompson and fellow goalie Adin Hill in back-to-back situations.
“He made some big stops for us,” Cassidy said. “I talked to Sean Burke, our goalie coach, and he thought we could get him [Thompson] on a little bit of a roll here. Coming out of a nice performance yesterday, we got him some run support so that was it.”
“It wasn’t a heavy duty game. It wasn’t a lot of travel,” said Cassidy. “Previous history this year, in Anaheim he went in and played very well after playing in LA the night before. Didn’t start but went in so those are probably the factors.”