Coyotes’ season ends with 4-2 loss to Winnipeg in front of sold out crowd

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Coyotes’ season ends with 4-2 loss to Winnipeg in front of sold out crowd

Coyotes final 2018-19 season game. (nevalleynews.org photography)

Coyotes final 2018-19 season game. (nevalleynews.org photography)

Coyotes final 2018-19 season game. (nevalleynews.org photography)

Coyotes final 2018-19 season game. (nevalleynews.org photography)

Adin Vilasevic, Reporter

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After getting mathematically eliminated from a playoff position on Thursday night, the Arizona Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night for their final game of the 2018-2019 season.

It was fan appreciation night, but the Coyotes had a tough go at giving their fans a rowdy sendoff after losing 4-2 to the Jets. Still, Gila River Arena was filled to capacity as the fans waited for the team to announce their season awards.

Awards were presented pregame with goaltender Darcy Kuemper winning the team MVP and the Three Stars Award.

Kuemper came into the season as a backup, but when starter Antti Raanta took an injury that kept him out most of the season, Kuemper came in and led the team to several crucial wins.

Head coach Rick Tocchet talked about Kuemper’s play over the season and the award he received.

“He’s obviously a guy that if they were to ever give a trophy you can put (this one) on his mantle pretty proudly and I don’t think the guys will be complaining about that,” Tocchet said

The first period began with the Coyotes coming out of the gate composed and motivated as forward Alex Galchenyuk scored his team-leading 19th goal of the season in the second minute of the game’s opening period as the team’s very first shot on the power play bounced off Winnipeg’s goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s glove and into the net to make it 1-0.

The Jets, who saw Saturday’s game as an important one in order to secure home-ice advantage in the playoffs, would bounce back and score the equalizer when Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele shot the puck past Coyotes backup goalie Calvin Pickard with 4:42 left in the first period to tie the game up at 1-1.

The second period was not as close as the first, as Winnipeg scored their second goal of the game in the second minute when defenseman Jacob Trouba scored his 8th goal of the season to push Winnipeg up 2-1.

The Jets stayed on the attack when Kyle Connor scored his 34th goal of the season halfway through the period. Connor got the puck from a couple of well-executed passes from Blake Wheeler and Scheifele to shoot it past Pickard to give the Jets a two-goal lead.

The onslaught continued with another puck getting dropped into the Coyotes net as Winnipeg’s forward Nikolaj Ehlers scored 15 minutes into the second period to make it 4-1.

The last period of the regular season saw the Coyotes gain a little bit of momentum when Arizona forward Brad Richardson scored his 19th goal of the season to tie Galchenyuk for most goals on the team.

It was also Richardson’s 100th career goal.

The momentum stopped when Josh Archibald’s goal was reversed on a coach’s challenge due to goaltender interference.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Coyotes’ had ended the season with a record of 39-35-8 which placed them ninth in the Western Conference and just four points out of a playoff berth.

Coach Tocchet addressed both motivation and disappointment in not making the playoffs.

“Everyone is disappointed. You get a taste off how close you are,” Tocchet said.

“I was talking to our players the other day from start to closing to today. Was there anything we could have done more for those extra two or three points? I even say to myself, ‘Could I have done something?’

“But in between that I’m really proud of this group. They all love each other. They all hang together which is great, and it all started with adversity. It’s almost like they said we’re going to need everybody.”

Tocchet wants to see more building in the offseason.

“You hear John (Chayka),” Tocchet said. “He wants to get better players. He wants to keep creating the culture.

“We have to keep steamrolling. We have to keep pushing ourselves. We have some guys that are going to have to have a really good summer to train. We are going to have some guys that didn’t have that great of a year. They have to come back really motivated. We got some guys that are hurt that we’re gonna rely on but the attitude in this organization is to push forward.

“We cannot take a step back. I think the fans have started to believe and are starting to come out. I think the ticket sales are getting better and I think we have to show them that we’re not gonna take a step back.”

It should be worth noting that the Coyotes have most of their core players locked up for the future and should be able to add key pieces for the next season with the hope of ending an eight-year playoff drought in the desert.

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