In the heart of Tempe, under the bright lights of Mullett Arena, a heated ice battle raged as the Arizona Coyotes clashed with the Ottawa Senators – a contest that would mark the much-anticipated debut of Ottawa’s new bench boss, Jacques Martin. Their confrontation unspooled a tale of relentless pursuit and the capricious nature of fortune in a gripping 4-3 comeback saga that had the Coyotes emerge victorious amidst the desert din.
Martin, once the mastermind behind Ottawa’s bench from 1996-2004, stepped back into the coaching fray in place of the recently dismissed D.J. Smith. “I felt comfortable, we had some good meetings today… I think we did some really good things,” commented Martin, exuding a quiet confidence in a process he understands is not an overnight transformation. His eyes, however, twinkled with the promise of progression.
Yet, for all of Martin’s hopes and strategies, it was the Coyotes’ Michael Kesselring who landed the coup de grâce. With less than four minutes left in the final stanza, Kesselring’s decisive shot took a fateful ricochet off an opposing defenseman’s skate and past a besieged Joonas Korpisalo in the Senators’ goal, tilting the scales at 16:27 of the third. The arena, filled with collective gasps a moment before, now thundered with the exultation of Coyotes supporters.
The groundwork for the Coyotes’ uprising had been laid earlier in that pivotal period when J.J. Moser and Clayton Keller found the net within a mere 33 seconds of each other, erasing the Senators’ three-goal advantage and resetting the crusade at 3-3. “I think we outplayed them, to be honest, just a few little mistakes,” Kesselring would later reflect, a testament to the belief radiating through the home team’s room – a belief that they were destined to rise triumphant.
Amid the chaos, Karel Vejmelka emerged a savior between the pipes, pitching a shutout for the Coyotes after taking the reins from Connor Ingram. His heroics didn’t go unnoticed as the coach, Andre Tourigny, hailed it as a pivotal moment in the deadlocked battle.
The Senators, despite a valiant start, felt the tug of a season’s woes pulling them down once more. Youngster Angus Crookshank, in only his second NHL outing, did manage to carve a memory etched in pure joy as he redirected a puck past the Coyotes’ guard, giving his parents and team an early lead they’d later watch dissolve.
The game continued its dramatic ebb and flow, with goals from the Senators’ Josh Norris and Dominik Kubalik, and a relentless drive from the Coyotes spearheaded by Jack McBain, who halved the deficit in the second act of this dramatic evening.
Observations whispered from the sidelines included Martin’s decade-long hiatus from NHL coaching, the return of a prodigal forward, Tarasenko, and a defenseman, Jakob Chychrun, skating against the echoes of his past with the Coyotes.
While the Senators contemplate their future at the close of their fraught road trip, the victorious Coyotes bask in the glory of a powerful start on home ice, matching their best since their 2011-2012 campaign. For the Senators, the quest for redemption persists, while the Coyotes celebrate their ability to rise from the ashes – a perfect metaphor for a team synonymous with the canine spirit of the desert.