Originally Published: December 28, 2017 6:04 a.m.
DENVER — The Arizona Coyotes withstood a late push and held off the Colorado Avalanche.
The NHL’s worst team sure appreciated the change of fortune — if even for just one night.
Alex Goligoski scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, and Arizona survived a flurry of near-misses by the Avalanche to come away with a 3-1 victory.
Of the close calls in the third by Colorado, Matt Nieto hit the crossbar 2:05 into the period. Nathan MacKinnon was denied on a breakaway chance at the 5:10 mark. And Nikita Zadorov hit the crossbar with 7:05 remaining.
“Game of inches,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. “It can go either way a lot of nights. It’s nice to be on our end sometimes than the other end, so it was a hard-fought win for us.”
Tobias Rieder scored 54 seconds into the game and Antti Raanta stopped 25 shots for the Coyotes, who won for only the second time in 10 games. Lawson Crouse added his first goal of the season with 4:25 remaining.
Arizona fell to Colorado 6-2 on Saturday prior to the NHL’s three-day break.
“It’s been an up-and-down first half (of the season) and we’re trending in the right direction,” Raanta said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Goligoski put the Coyotes ahead for good 10:34 into the second with his fourth goal of the season. Off a Colorado turnover, Clayton Keller pushed up the ice and fed Goligoski, who beat Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov from the circle.
Varlamov stopped 24 shots as the Avalanche failed to record at least a point for just the third time in nine games. Mikko Rantanen added his 11th goal of the season.
Colorado was outshot 20-13 through two periods but came out firing in the third.
“The end of the second and third period we had a lot of chances,” Rantanen said. “We should have scored at least a couple goals there and their goalie played pretty well. Everyone knows it’s one we should have had.”
The Avalanche fell to 10-7-1 at home this season.
Arizona won despite going 0 for 4 on the power play and failing to score on a 5-on-3 chance that lasted 1:53. Colorado’s penalty kill has not allowed a goal in its last 28 chances.
“(The PK) was great again, did a real nice job keeping them to the outside, good sticks, when we needed to block shots, we did,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “If the rest of our game played with the same urgency as our PK does, we’d be a lot more successful.”
Earlier, Rieder scored his sixth goal of the season to put Arizona up 1-0 in the first minute. Varlamov lost track of the puck behind the net as Brendan Perlini sent a pass in front to Rieder, who scored glove-side with Varlamov facing the opposite direction.
Colorado tied things at 1-1 3:56 into the first on Rantanen’s one-timer.
Arizona’s Zac Rinaldo has been suspended six games for punching Colorado’s Samuel Girard. Rinaldo was expected to take part in a phone hearing Wednesday with the NHL after waiving his right to have an in-person hearing. The league’s player safety department announced his suspension with a tweet about an hour before Wednesday’s game. Avalanche’s Tyson Barrie is expected to undergo surgery on Thursday for a broken bone in his right hand and will be out four to six weeks. Barrie left Saturday’s game early in the first period after he blocked a shot with his hand.
Arizona: Will host the Toronto Maple Leaves Thursday.
Colorado: Will host the Maple Leaves on Friday.