Coyotes damage Lightning’s playoff hopes with 5-3 win
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes, not the Tampa Bay Lightning, looked like the team chasing a postseason spot.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a goal and an assist during Arizona’s three-goal third period, Louis Domingue stopped 36 shots and the Coyotes damaged Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes with a 5-3 victory Tuesday night.
Arizona, with the NHL’s second-worst record, also got goals from Christian Fischer, Christian Dvorak, Radim Vrbata and Connor Murphy.
The Coyotes were coming off a 3-1 loss Monday night at Nashville.
“I thought our guys were in real good spirits all day,” coach Dave Tippett said. “You wonder, tough back-to-back, how they were going to be. They were loose, they were ready to play.”
Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov scored for the Lightning, who remained four points behind Toronto for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves.
“There’s been a lot of frustrating games this year, so this ranks up there,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “How important the game is to us. That 3-2 lead at home in a must-win for us, to give it up like we did, it’s frustrating, to say the least.”
Tampa Bay has dropped three in a row at home, allowing five goals in each defeat.
“All of a sudden, defending hasn’t become important,” Cooper said. “If you’re not going to defend, you’re not going to win.”
Cooper pointed out that Arizona blocked 25 shots, compared to six by the Lightning.
Ekman-Larsson and Vrbata scored two minutes apart early in the third as the Coyotes went up 4-3. Murphy had a late empty-netter that went off Hedman’s glove.
Arizona has been outscored 81-52 during the third period this season.
The Lightning took a 3-2 lead late in the second when Namestnikov’s shot hit the post and then went off Arizona left wing Anthony Duclair.
“We felt we had a couple breaks go against us,” Tippett said. “We were just going to stick with it, see how things panned out, and they turned out right.”
Dvorak and Kucherov traded goals earlier in the second.
Kucherov also had an assist and has 13 goals and 24 points over his last 14 games.
Fischer, recalled from Tucson of the AHL for a second stint this season, opened the scoring in the first. Vasilevskiy misplayed the puck behind the net, allowing Lawson Crouse to find Fischer alone near the vacated net.
It was Fischer’s third goal on as many shots. He had two goals in a three-game span in late January.
“Somebody is going to be second guessing how much I play this guy,” Tippett said with a smile. “Every time he gets on the ice to start a game, he scores.”
Hedman tied it at 1 on a first-period breakaway.
NOTES: Tippett earned his 550th NHL win, moving past Marc Crawford into 18th place on the career list. ... Arizona RW Shane Doan (lower-body injury) missed his third straight game. ... Namestnikov (lower-body injury) was back after sitting out three games. ... Hedman became the third Tampa Bay defenseman to reach 60 points in a season, joining Roman Hamrlik (1995-96) and Dan Boyle (2006-07).
Coyotes: Make their third stop on a five-game trip Thursday night at Florida.
Lightning: Play the first of two consecutive road games Thursday night at Boston.