GLENDALE, Ariz. — Games like these are ones that should have had the heavily favored Kraken nervous before puck drop and possibly even more so after they’d scored twice before the contest was even a minute old. 

The Arizona Coyotes are going through a hellacious and likely final season in their Gila River Arena home and looked to be rolling over almost too easily Saturday night when Jordan Eberle scored 15 seconds into it and Yanni Gourde added another by the 59-second mark. But judging by the look on Gourde’s face once a wild finish and stunning 5-4 loss to the Coyotes was done, there will be nothing easy for the Kraken in remembering the final details of this sloppily played affair for quite some time.

“We got two quick goals, and I don’t think we played very well after that,” Gourde said after the Kraken watched their opponent win for the first time this season in its 12th attempt. “We weren’t managing the puck very well. We weren’t playing fast. We weren’t playing with identity. If you don’t do that, there are good teams in the league and they’re going to beat you.”

And even awful teams like the Coyotes once in a while will pull victories out of nowhere as well. Especially when left unguarded in front of the net, or allowed to gain control of the puck behind it and send it out front for bang-bang plays.

That’s what happened with 1:05 to go as Lawson Crouse bagged his second goal of the period by taking a centering pass from behind the net and burying it behind Philipp Grubauer. The goal came just 13 seconds after Mark Giordano had tied the game with a screened blast from the left point.

Coyotes veteran Phil Kessel, playing in his 912th consecutive game and just two behind Gary Unger for the NHL’s No. 3 all-time ranking on its “ironman” board, had put his team in front on the power play at 13:34 of the final frame with Nathan Bastian in the box for tripping.


The Kraken blew a two-goal lead, allowing the equalizer just 46 seconds into the third period when Crouse took a pass in the slot and wristed the puck past Philipp Grubauer to make it 3-3.

“We’re going to look at the clips, we’re going to look at the tape and we’re going to come up with answers and be better next game,” Gourde said. “But overall, they won more battles than we did. And at the end of the day, you lose more battles you’re going to lose the game.”

Until now, fate hadn’t been nearly this kind to the Coyotes, who were told right before the season started that they won’t have their lease extended at what’s been their home arena since 2003. And though the team’s ownership keeps making noise about playing a final campaign here next year, politicos in Glendale continue to insist both in public and behind the scenes that’s not happening. 

The Coyotes entered the night looking even worse on the ice at 0-10-1 and just one loss away from breaking a tie and owning the second worst start to a season in NHL history all by themselves. They were also closing in on the 1943-44 New York Rangers and their 0-14-1 start for the worst season-opening winless stretch of all-time.

In other words, they had very little to lose going into this one.

“Just overall in some critical areas, our focus was not there,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “The third goal, a pass-out play from underneath our goal line … our awareness wasn’t there and that’s indicative of a couple of goals against.”


It all started off so much better for the Kraken.

The record for the quickest goal to start a game in NHL history is 5 seconds, achieved on four separate occasions. So, Eberle snatching away a loose puck behind Arizona’s net and shifting to his forehand to score his fourth goal in the equivalent of a period plus two minutes his last two games wasn’t really close to matching that.

But as a team record, Eberle’s 15-second strike will likely stand for quite a while. And for the quickest 2-0 lead, Gourde putting the second Kraken goal past Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka on a wristshot just a tick before the opening minute mark is another franchise feat that should stand the test of time.

Vejmelka was replaced by newly acquired Scott Wedgewood fresh off a waiver claim. The change of netminders, whether intended or not, seemed to give the Coyotes a badly needed wake-up call, and they responded just 34 seconds later when Antoine Roussel waltzed down the left side unchallenged and beat Grubauer with his team’s first shot from very close range. 

The Kraken would go up 3-1 before the period was out, aided largely by a giveaway behind the net by Coyotes defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin. Kraken center Alex Wennberg was harassing the defender at the time and the puck slid out to Bastian, who deked Wedgewood for his first of the season.

But the Coyotes got that goal back to make it a 3-2 game just 3:12 into the second period on a defensive breakdown in the Kraken end that left Travis Boyd uncovered all alone in front of Grubauer to redirect a pass home.

“It’s tough to put your finger on exactly how breakdowns happen,” Bastian said. “You see what the mistakes are and you try to learn from them and build from them. So, today was a big lesson for us. Coming out with the lead that early … you have to learn how to finish teams off and we weren’t able to do that.”