Fischer scores in 1st game, Coyotes top Lightning 5-3
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Christian Fischer picked right up from where he left off in the minors.
Just called up from Tucson of the AHL, the 6-foot-2, 19-year-old right wing scored on his first NHL shot to help the Arizona Coyotes snap a four-game losing streak and beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 on Saturday night.
“That’s my game, just getting to the net there, and that’s what I’ve been doing so far in Tucson,” he said, “so it just happened that was the goal it happened.”
Arizona blew open a 5-1 lead through two periods.
Radim Vrbata tied his career best with four points — a goal and three assists — for the Coyotes, who won for the third time in their last 16 games. Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder each had a goal and two assists for Arizona.
One of Hanzal’s assists came on Michael Stone’s power-play goal an instant after Arizona’s 5-on-3 advantage ended.
Cedric Paquette, Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat scored for the Lightning, losers of eight of their last 10.
Arizona goalie Mike Smith had 45 saves and is 5-0-2 in games when he saved 40 or more shots.
The Lightning outshot the Coyotes 48-23.
Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop was lifted after allowing five goals in two periods and finished with 12 saves in 48 minutes.
“That was unexpected of him,” Vrbata said, “because when you go on him and you try to find a shot, there’s not much to look at. Tobi squeezed one by him, and I did the same, and we just figured keep shooting. We got a couple goals that usually doesn’t happen against him, so we’ll take it.”
His replacement Andrei Vasilevskiy saved all six shots he faced.
Fischer, who scored 16 goals in 32 games in Tucson, said he’d decided against another year of junior hockey and was convinced after training camp with the Coyotes he was ready for the NHL.
“I thought I could make an impact on this game and I believed I could play in the NHL,” Fischer said. “Whether it was start in the minors, it’s OK. I think I worked on my game down there and couldn’t be happier with my decision.”
Arizona took a lead it never relinquished when, from a tough angle just to the left of the goal, Rieder slipped a shot just between Bishop’s stick and the post 8:05 into the game. Less than two minutes later, Vrbata got a shot, also just to Bishop’s right, and it was 2-0.
Paquette’s goal with 1:21 left in the first cut the lead to 2-1 entering the second period.
Stone’s power-play goal made it 3-1, and Fischer redirected a pass from Jamie McGinn over Bishop’s stick to make it 4-1.
The Coyotes blew open a 5-1 lead when Hanzal scored 16 seconds before the end of the second period.
Tampa Bay rallied for two goals in the third period but got no closer.
Arizona killed four of five power plays. One of them was a four-minute power play.
“That was a big moment for us, no doubt,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Our power play has been pretty good all year, but it wasn’t that one. It was the one about a minute and a half into the game and we weren’t working. It kind of set the tone for the way that first period was going.”
Notes: The five goals tied the season high for Arizona. ... Vrbata passed Teemu Selanne for 10th on the franchise career goals list. ... Fischer is the 11th player with a goal in his first game in Coyotes history. ... Vrbata has 130 career multipoint games. ... Arizona’s only other five-goal game was Oct. 27 at Philadelphia. ... Lightning have allowed five or more goals in three of their last 10 games. ... Tampa Bay is 1-3 so far on a six-game road trip.
Lightning: Tampa Bay is at Chicago on Tuesday night.
Coyotes: Arizona returns home to play Florida Monday night.