GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Arizona Coyotes were on their heels from the start, giving up two early goals against the NHL’s lowest-scoring team.
A flurry of flying fists finally got their attention.
Christian Dvorak scored two goals and the Coyotes rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in a testy game on Feb. 22.
"It was a wacky game," said Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who had a goal and an assist. "We just have to be better at the drop of the puck, but it was a heck of a response."
The buzz heading into the game was the much-anticipated debut of Anaheim's top prospect Trevor Zegras.
Big hits, fights and bunches of goals became the focus once the puck dropped.
Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper was among five players penalized during a lengthy melee that set the physical tone early. The first period ended with two fights and the teams combined for 46 penalty minutes overall.
The Ducks scored twice in the opening period and had a 3-0 lead early in the second.
Arizona stormed back to tie it in the second period with three goals in less than four minutes and went ahead in the third on Dvorak’s second goal.
Derick Brassard also scored for Arizona and Kuemper stopped 24 shots.
Cam Fowler, Jakob Silfverberg and Max Jones scored for Anaheim. John Gibson had 21 saves.
"It was a crazy game. Usually when you’re up 3-0 and you end up losing the game it’s because you quit playing," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. "We didn’t quit playing. The guys had unbelievable energy tonight, they were engaged from start to finish. "
Anaheim arrived in the desert with an NHL-low 33 goals but didn’t need much time to get its first one against Arizona. Silfverberg scored three minutes in, beating Kuemper between the pads after stealing the puck from Johan Larsson.
Jones scored on a two-man advantage later in the period to make it 2-0 and set off a melee by standing over fallen Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Kuemper came to his captain’s defense and five players ended up in the penalty box, including three Coyotes.
The hits kept coming.
The teams combined for 38 penalty minutes in the opening period.
Fowler made it 3-0 in the first two minutes of the third period with a shot through a screen.
"We were playing a direct game and getting pucks to the net," Silfverberg said. "When you get rewarded early, get one then two, it helps with confidence."
But then it was Arizona’s turn to score.
Dvorak beat Gibson on a penalty shot after Silfverberg hooked him on a short-handed breakaway. It was the third short-handed penalty-shot goal in Coyotes’ history.
Brassard pulled Arizona within 3-2, one-timing a pass from Conor Garland two minutes later. Chychrun tied it less than two minutes after that, beating Gibson glove side before bowling him over.
Dvorak gave Arizona its first lead — on a power play, of course — by redirecting a shot by Chychrun early in the third period.
Kuemper made some big saves down the stretch to seal it.
"We were god awful in the first period, probably our worst period of the season," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. "We had a good response, got a couple of good goals and hung on. Glad we won, but it’s not good enough."
Anaheim fans had been calling for Zegras to join the NHL club and he finally got the chance when the Ducks called him up from their top affiliate in San Diego.
The ninth overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft was the MVP while leading the U.S. to gold at the World Junior Championships and had had four goals and five assists in eight games for San Diego.
Zegras had a solid debut after doing the traditional rookie solo lap around the rink before the game, managing two shots in a little over 13 minutes.
"Obviously, with the loss, it was kind of tough for me to show how cool it was," he said. "The guys were unbelievable and doing a solo lap is something every kid dreams of."
Anaheim and Arizona play again on Wednesday in what’s sure to be another testy game.
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