GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes’ loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night saw more than just two NHL teams playing a regular season game in early January.
The game was a battle between an unusually large number of former teammates.
So it was apropos that when the contest went to a shootout, the first shooter was former New York Rangers draft pick Anthony Duclair.
“He knew what I was doing and I knew that he knew,” Duclair said of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, his former teammate. “I had one move in mind. I should have just read what he was doing, but he got me on that one.”
Lundqvist stopped Duclair’s shot attempt, as he did many others throughout the evening.
Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said the first period (in which Arizona outshot the Rangers 11-6 and had numerous quality scoring chances) could have been the team’s best period of the season, though the former Vezina Trophy winner let in just one goal — fittingly, from Duclair, and assisted by former Rangers center Derek Stepan.
Duclair’s goal wasn’t enough against Lundqvist, who beat his former backup goalie: Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta, whom the Rangers traded to Arizona over the summer.
“Any time you play against your former team, you kind of have a little bit extra,” Raanta said. “At first, it was kind of weird to play but when you get a couple saves and get the good feeling going, it’s just another game.
“Hank [Lundqvist] was so good in the other end. You kind of were telling yourself that, ‘Hey, you need to stop the next puck also, you can’t let in any more goals.’”
Raanta had some big saves of his own, helping the Coyotes earn a point for the second consecutive game. He did not get the chance to play against his previous club when the Coyotes were in New York earlier this season, as Raanta was recovering from an injury.
Stepan, though, did play at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 26. He, like Raanta, was traded by the Rangers on June 23 after seven seasons in New York, reaching the playoffs every year he was there and scoring more than 300 points.
When he returned to to play in Manhattan for the first time since the trade, he posted a minus-3 and was 38 percent at the faceoff dot.
“I felt a lot more comfortable tonight,” Stepan said. “Just being at home, I think, was a big thing. And getting that first one out of the way. It was not easy going into MSG, going into the wrong side. To be at home, it felt a lot better.”
Like Duclair, Stepan also got a chance to face Lundqvist in the shootout on Saturday. He stepped in across the blue line, wound back as if to take a slap shot, then fired the puck at Lundqvist after a brief pause. Lundqvist stopped the shot, ending the game.
“I like trying to do something that he hasn’t seen yet,” Stepan said. “I figured I’d just come in and try to beat him low glove. He made a great save. I thought actually it was going to squeak by him but he got a pad on it somehow.”
Former Rangers: 1
The Coyotes will have some time off for the next five days for their so-called “bye week.” On Friday, Arizona hosts the Edmonton Oilers before playing the following night in San Jose.
That game against the Sharks is the first of two in a row against San Jose and the first game in a stretch in which the Coyotes will play three of four on the road.