Clinging to wild-card spot, Coyotes face Lightning next
With just 10 games remaining in their regular season, the only number the Arizona Coyotes are interested in is that magical one that represents a berth in the Western Conference's postseason play.
They woke up Sunday finding themselves in playoff position.
Arizona (36-30-6, 78 points) faces the Tampa Bay Lightning in Florida at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Coyotes handed the Lightning their worst loss of the season back on Oct. 27 in Arizona, trouncing the NHL's best team, 7-1.
The club occupied the conference's second wild-card position following Saturday's 3-2 overtime home loss to the Edmonton Oilers and superstar Connor McDavid. And while losing is still just that -- an opportunity wasted to fortify its position -- Arizona was able to pad its slim lead.
Like he has against many opponents, McDavid did in the Coyotes.
The speedster flew by slick-skating Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a short-handed tally in the first period, and just 58 seconds into overtime, McDavid's 36th of the season beat goalie Darcy Kuemper for the game-winner.
Still, the loss resulted in a point, and Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet was fine with leaving the arena with an extra point rather than nothing.
"I'm not upset," Tocchet said. "Edmonton is a desperate team. They've got two of the best players in the world in McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl, and they're fighting and scratching.
"We're fine. We got a point. We're OK."
Tocchet's club faces an extremely difficult task in Tampa, where the Lightning are 30-6-2 this season and are riding high after beating the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
In his second year as bench boss in Arizona, Tocchet broke into the NHL head coaching ranks when he was promoted to lead the Lightning in November 2008 after coach Barry Melrose's team opened the season 5-7-4.
The franchise's new ownership relieved Tocchet of his coaching duties after the 2009-10 campaign in which the Lightning went 34-36-12, finished third in the Southeast Division and again missed the playoffs.
In the 7-1 rout over Tampa Bay in the 10th game of this season, the Coyotes got two short-handed goals from Michael Grabner and jumped all over former Arizona goalie Louis Domingue in his first game against his former team.
The Lightning (55-13-4) have posted incredible numbers during a record-setting season.
They notched their 55 win in the 6-3 win over Washington, and they established new franchise records for wins and points in a season, topping the 54 victories and 113 points they posted last year.
The club moved one step closer to clinching the Atlantic Division, too, as its magic number was reduced to just two points.
Alex Killorn, who recorded his first career hat trick in the victory over the reigning Stanley Cup champions, said Tampa Bay's focus is solely on the task at hand, not the falling records.
"It's great, to be honest, breaking those records are nice to do, but it really doesn't mean much," the winger said. "We really want to just keep improving so we can put ourselves in the best spot in the playoffs."
--Field Level MediaHome