The Arizona Coyotes have life in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trailing 2-0 in the series going into a pivotal game three, the Yotes’ managed to hold on for a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper once again stood on his head, making 49 saves on 51 shots while his team was outshot 51-21. The mark tied his career-high, and although the netminder stole the show, Kuemper was still his humble-self during his postgame press conference.
“Today, we did a really good job of defending,” Kuemper said. “I feel like we do that every night and it makes my job a lot easier. We really defend well as a unit and everybody buys in, and it makes it a lot easier to see the puck and just focus on making the first save.”
That defensive presence included 27 blocked shots from the Coyotes. They had to fend off a relentless Colorado push in the third period while up 2-1, trying to clear bodies and tie up sticks for Kuemper to make timely saves.
“That’s who we are. That’s our identity. We have to play that way,” said Coyotes forward Derek Stepan of the defensive buy-in. “…We are finding ways to get it done, and at this time of the year, nothing matters more than the end result.”
Indeed, the end result was all that mattered for the Coyotes on Saturday while being outshot. The effort came after a 3-2 loss the day prior in which the team played well enough to win.
Now entering game four, they will enter another critical game to try and knot up the series. Although they are the underdogs, head coach Rick Tocchet hopes Saturday’s victory helps give his group a boost of confidence to fuel a comeback effort.
“I think this is a big win for us and it’s going to relax some guys,” Tocchet said. “It’s the playoffs. Anything can happen. We keep talking about that. You just don’t know what can happen and you have to be ready for it…I think the guys know that it’s a good win but they have to play better.”