The Coyotes spent almost three months trudging through road trip after road trip, hoping to reach Christmas near the .500 mark and still within shouting distance of a playoff spot when their new arena opened in Glendale.
That's exactly what happened. But after two games before standing-room-only crowds in their new home, the Coyotes have only one point to show for all the hoopla. They need a win tonight against the Los Angeles Kings to avert a disastrous first week in Glendale Arena.
Monday's 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Rangers was especially painful. The Coyotes blew a 2-1 lead in the final 90 seconds and saw a point they will surely wish they had down the line slip away.
“When you are a .500 team at this point, you're one losing streak away from putting yourself out of the playoff race,'' goalie Sean Burke said. “Points are very precious, and when you have a game like (Monday), they can stay with
you if you don't come back strong.''
The Coyotes have done their share of point-stealing this season, rallying seven times for ties with late third-period goals. The last one came 12 days ago in Los Angeles, when Phoenix wiped out a 3-0 first-period deficit and forged a 4-4 tie on Ladislav Nagy's goal with 1:10 left in regulation.
That doesn't make Monday's meltdown against the Rangers — when Chris Gratton and Paul Mara were goaded into penalties that set up Bobby Holik's game-tying, power-play goal — any easier to swallow.
“It sure doesn't feel good to be on the other end. We had the game won, and we gave it away,'' Phoenix coach Bob Francis said. “There is a fine line between responding to circumstances and self-destructing. Emotions were high after the game, and we addressed some issues. You have to learn from it.''
LOOSE PUCKS: The Coyotes sent rookie Matthew Spiller (scratched the last five game) to Springfield (Mass.) of the AHL. The Falcons play three games this weekend, and Spiller may return as soon as next week when the Coyotes are in nearby Washington.. . .
Right wing Landon Wilson was placed on the injured list after an MRI on his hip showed he needs at least a week of rest. After obtaining winger Ivan Novoseltsev from Florida on Tuesday, the Coyotes still have two open spots on their roster.. . .
Nashville's Scott Walker was named the NHL's player of the week, and he can thank the Coyotes — all four of his goals and six of his seven points came in two games against Phoenix.