Arizona Coyotes play better but still lose to Colorado Avalanche

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There is still some fight in the desert dogs.

After being out-played in essentially every game of the NHL restart to this point, the Arizona Coyotes played their most complete game Friday at Rogers Place. Unfortunately for them, it still wasn’t enough, losing 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of their best-of-seven, first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Andre Burakovsky scored the winning goal for the Avalanche with 2:56 left in the third period. Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Jost also scored in the win, while goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 30 saves.

Clayton Keller and Michael Grabner scored for the Coyotes who fell down 2-0 in the series. Darcy Kuemper made 25 saves. Game 3 is Saturday (1 p.m.) at Rogers Place.

“We played a really good hockey game,” said Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet. “We had a couple of chances and we missed on a couple of chance. I think if we hit the net on one of those chances, I think we score. But we played a good hockey game, that’s more like it. I’m proud the way we played, we responded, we were in their faces that’s more like the way we have to play consistently.

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“Yeah we would have liked to get that next goal, we would have liked to get a power-play goal, but at the end of the day, we played a good hockey game.”

Arizona had been out-played through the qualifying round and in Game 1 against Colorado, getting outshot 40-14 in a 3-0 defeat. They had been out-shot in every game they’ve played so far, but instead of sitting back like they had in the opener, Arizona had more jump and took the game to Colorado despite falling behind five minutes into the game on a goal from MacKinnon.

“I think the effort was better, we got a lot more pucks to the net and we played more like we wanted to,” Grabner said. “But the result was still the same, so we have to figure it out (Saturday).”

MacKinnon scored on a rush down the left wing, snapping a shot past Kuemper, who was the main reason Arizona was able to get past the Nashville Predators in the best-of-five qualifying round, getting badly outshot in three of four games.

Keller tied the game three minutes left in the period after Taylor Hall set up him up in front and his shot snuck through Grubauer and sat on the goal line. In an attempt to clear the puck Colorado defenceman Samuel Girard ended up poking it into his own net.

“I think we came out hard, got a lot of pucks to the net, but the result was the same and we just have to find another gear,” Keller said. “When the pressure is on with 10 minutes left we have to play tight and put a puck in the net and when they got one there, we have to find a better way to try and get one late.”

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Jost, a St. Albert product, put Colorado up 2-1 at 3:37 of the second period, re-directing a point shot from Cale Makar in past Kuemper. Jost had been inserted into the lineup after sitting out the opening game of the series.

“Cale made a great play, I think he saw me alone in front so I presented my stick and he made a great shot and I was lucky to get a stick on it,” Jost said. “It definitely felt good to see it go in. It was nice to get in the lineup, I wanted to be playing, so I’m happy to contribute.”

Colorado’s lead was short-lived as Grabner scored 89 seconds later, collecting the puck in the corner and coming out unmolested to snap a shot past Grubauer.

“I think after the last game where they only had 14 shots and a couple were just dump-ins from the red line we knew they were going to bring their A-game,” Grubauer said. “We expected exactly what they brought today, they were fast, they were going to the net, but our D-core did a fantastic job, for the most part, to keep them to the outside and were blocking shots.”

Both teams came out cautious in the third although each had a chance to take the lead. The game looked destined for overtime when Burakovsky buried a long rebound off as shot from Nazem Kadri. The Avalanche had lost centre Vladislav Namestnikov to injury so MacKinnon was double-shifted for most of the third.

MacKinnon finished playing 21:30, the most of any Avalanche forward and second to Hall, who was also hopping over the boards seemingly every other shift and finished playing 22:35 for Arizona.

MacKinnon was asked if he was tired or worried about playing Game 3 less than 24 hours later?

“No, it’s why I win the fitness testing every year,” he smiled. “I’ll be buzzing (Saturday).”

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest