The Arizona Coyotes need to match the Colorado Avalanche’s firepower if they’re going to stand a chance at staying alive in the postseason.
The Avalanche scored three times during a span of 1 minute, 23 seconds in the third period of a 3-0 win over the Coyotes on Wednesday to kick off the first round of the Western Conference best-of-seven series.
The Coyotes know they have to generate offense on Friday when the teams reconvene in Edmonton.
“I think as a group, we’ve got to get more on our toes,” Arizona forward Derek Stepan said. “I don’t know if it had to do with nerves. I don’t know really why we were sitting back as much as we were. When we had opportunities to go, we had to continue to press. When we shift the momentum, we can’t just sit back.”
Referees assessed Stepan an interference penalty at 12:21 of the third period, and Nazem Kadri used the ensuing power play to get the Avalanche on the board. J.T. Compher and Mikko Rantanen quickly added a goal of their own to change the complexion of the contest.
The penalty raised eyebrows on the Coyotes bench, but Stepan took the call in stride.
“I think those refs have a really difficult job,” he said. “This is the Stanley Cup playoffs; it’s a puck that’s dumped in the corner. I don’t really see much danger there to make a call like that in the third period.”
The fault lies in the Coyotes’ inability to generate chances, especially on a power play that failed to convert on two chances in the series opener.
“When it’s a 0-0 game and you get a power play, you need to make sure you capitalize,” Stepan said. “That can change the feel of the 60-minute hockey game. Special teams are huge. I’m not worried about our power play. I’m confident. I’m sure we’ll make our adjustments and we’ll get ourselves ready for Game 2.”
The Avalanche, who fired 40 shots at goalie Darcy Kuemper, are preparing for a scrappy Coyotes lineup — no different than they faced in the series opener.
Head coach Jared Bednar, whose team limited the Coyotes to 14 shots, said the Avalanche will have to be even better defensively.
“We are expecting it to be tight checking all the way through. Again they are well coached, they are disciplined, they have a great identity and they know what it is, and it was a very close hockey game,” Bednar said.
“Our message is going to be, ‘Take a look at that game, we know how hard it was.’ We are going to expect it to get harder, and we are going to have to keep finding ways to penetrate the interior of the ice and create scoring chances. We are going to have to be equally as good as we were tonight or better on the defensive side of things (as the series continues).”
Defenseman Erik Johnson said he’ll be ready for what he expects to be another low-scoring game.
“We extensively looked at their team and what they do and what we think can give us success,” he said. “The majority of it is just sticking with it. They want to play the 0-0, or the 1-0 or the 2-1 game, which is fine, they have had success that way. … It might take until the last five minutes like you saw (Wednesday) against a team like that you just try to wear them down. “
The Avalanche intend to maintain their strong forecheck, forcing the Coyotes into errors and giving up the puck, Johnson said.
“I think if we just play with our team pace and our team speed, that is our strength,” he said. “Hopefully, that can push us on.”
–Field Level Media