Coyotes beat Flyers 4-3 in OT on Ekman-Larsson’s shot
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes spent most of overtime on their heels, chasing pucks and dodging shots. The Coyotes finally cleared the puck after a big save by Mike Smith and had a man advantage on a delayed penalty.
That’s when they turned to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the king of overtime hockey.
Ekman-Larsson set an NHL record for game-winning goals by a defenseman last season and picked up where he left off Saturday night, scoring at 1:48 of overtime to help the Coyotes begin their 20th season in the desert with a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Obviously, I’m playing with a lot of confidence playing 3 on 3 in overtime,” said Ekman-Larsson, who leads NHL defensemen with 21 winning goals the past three seasons.
The Flyers dominated the early part of overtime, but a sprawling save by Smith on Matt Read allowed the Coyotes to clear the puck and set up at the other end.
Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek was then hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty, allowing Smith to skate off for an extra attacker. The Coyotes worked the puck around quickly, with Radim Vrbata sending out a pass from behind the goal to Martin Hanzal, who one-timed it to Ekman-Larsson.
The four-time NHL All-Star gathered the puck and lifted it over a diving Steve Mason for his latest winner.
Hanzal also had a goal, along with Shane Doan and Brad Richardson for the Coyotes.
“I don’t think my heart rate’s been that high before with that flurry that went on what felt like forever,” said Smith, who stopped 27 shots. “Then high-stepping to the bench and winning, celebrating with my teammates on the bench was crazy there for a few minutes.”
The Flyers rallied from a 3-1 deficit after playing the night before and tied it on Read’s goal early in the third period. But Philadelphia continued to struggle on the power play — 0 for 4 — and couldn’t capitalize on numerous chances in overtime when it appeared to have the Coyotes on the ropes.
Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds also scored for the Flyers. Mason stopped 31 shots.
“Sometimes you just don’t get the bounces,” Simmonds said. ”(Smith) makes a bunch of good saves there. Then they turn around and go to the other end, get a scramble and the puck ends up in our net.”
Coming off a rebuilding season, the Coyotes are hoping to take the next step two decades after moving to the desert from Winnipeg.
The Flyers stood pat over the offseason after reaching the playoffs last year and opened the 2016-17 season with a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.
The Coyotes, not surprisingly, had a jump in their step for the opener and scored their first goal on a power play midway through the first period.
Doan, who led Arizona with 28 goals last season, got it by gathering a loose puck and flicking it past Mason, who was run into by two players. The goal was upheld after a challenge by the Flyers for goalie interference.
The Flyers gathered themselves after the slow start, tying it on Raffl’s deflection of a shot by Nick Schultz from the point.
Hanzal scored late in the period on a rebound and Richardson got the Coyotes off to a quick start in the second, scoring a short-handed goal 17 seconds in to make it 3-1.
The Flyers rallied despite the short turnaround from last night.
Simmonds pulled Philadelphia within 3-2 by slipping the puck between Smith’s pads in the second period and Read used a nifty move to tie it early in the third, deking Smith to get him out of position before knocking in a backhander.
“Thought for a back to back, that’s the effort you want,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.
NOTES: Arizona’s Jacob Chychrun and Christian Dvorak each had assists for their first NHL points. ... The Flyers are scoreless in six chances on the power play this season. ... The Coyotes are 8-2-0 when opening a season at home since moving to Arizona.
The Flyers play at Chicago on Tuesday before heading back to Philadelphia for their home opener against Anaheim.
Arizona kicks off a six-game trip in Ottawa on Tuesday.