TEMPE, Ariz. — The Bruins brought oversized offense to the NHL’s smallest rink Friday night, only to see their vulcanized onslaught (a season-high 46 shots on net) get repeatedly snuffed out by Arizona goalie Karel Vejmelka in a 4-3 loss to the Coyotes at the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena.
Setting aside Vejmekla’s stellar performance, the true showstopper of the night was an officiating crew that curiously decided not to whistle play dead with what appeared to be a blatant icing infraction in the final seconds of regulation.
With play allowed to keep rolling as the puck trickled by the side of Jeremy Swayman’s net, Coyotes forward Matias Maccelli swept in, centered out in front, and Lawson Crouse drove home the winner with but 13.5 seconds remaining on the clock.
Defenseman Derek Forbort failed to corral the loose puck behind Swayman, and Maccelli (two assists) turned the boo boo into a bonanza.
“I was shocked, honestly,” said veteran Bruins winger Nick Foligno, whose goal with 5:29 to go in regulation pulled the Bruins into a 3-3 tie. “I actually couldn’t believe it [wasn’t icing]. I was dumbfounded.”
The loss, only their fifth this season (21-4-1) prevented the Bruins from moving ahead of New Jersey for the top spot in the NHL’s point standings. For the Coyotes, just returned home from a 14-game road trip, it was only their eighth win of the season (8-13-4). It was also their first win over the Bruins since the start of the 2010-11 season.
The Bruins, whose goals came from David Pastrnak (19) and Charlie Coyle (7) and Foligno (5) rolled up 37 shots in the first two periods, and added nine more in the third. They have now clicked for more than 40 shots in five of their last nine games.
In the end, they just could not put enough rubber behind Vejmelka, the 6-foot-4 Czech, just as they couldn’t wrest the whistle away from an officiating crew that made myriad curious decisions. In one instance, with the Coyotes caught for too many on the ice, neither referee raised an arm as play rolled along, the Bruins unable to put an extra attacker on the ice before play finally was whistled down.
The late call should have been icing, said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, though he opted not to wade too deep into territory that could have brought him a fine for criticizing the men in stripes.
“It’s a great environment, but it’s a tough environment, too,” said Montgomery, noting the small building and the constant noise the crowd generated. “Things seem to happen a lot quicker here. Yeah, do we think we could have had a couple of more power plays, sure, but we could say that every night.”
Nick Schmaltz snapped a 2-2 tie only 53 seconds into the third, giving the Coyotes their second lead of the night.
Foligno, working on the second unit power play, delivered the goal for the 3-3 deadlock.
Only 23 seconds into the first, ex-Bruins backliner Josh Brown had the locals hootin’ and hollerin’ with his third goal of the season — his second in the two games between the clubs this year.
By the end of the period, the Bruins were back even, 1-1, on Pastrnak’s power-play strike (4:52), but they also were without Krecji, who disappeared to the dressing room after logging only 2:17 in ice time in the first. His exit had coach Montgomery juggling his line combinations, and he also temporarily split up his No. 1 D pair of Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm.
Pastrnak’s 1-1 equalizer, his 19th goal this season, came with Liam O’Brien in the penalty box and with Pastrnak set up at his favorite work site, the dot in the left wing circle. After some pressure down low around the Coyotes’ net, the puck came out to McAvoy at center point, and then McAvoy shuttled the relay on a diagonal for Pastrnak to unload his eighth power-play goal of the season.
There was no immediate word from the Bruins about the nature of Krejci’s injury or how he was hurt. He exited the bench around the 8:30 mark of the first and was not seen again until the two sides came back out for the start of the second period. He played Period 2 without any issues and set up Foligno’s equalizer in the third.
The Coyotes put their second puck in the net at 4:17 of the second period — but it was wiped off the board after a video review. The Coyotes were set up in the zone, but replay showed the puck had just inched out of the zone before the Coyotes pulled it back to put pressure on Swayman.
The Bruins moved ahead for the first time, 2-1, with 7:48 gone in the second after sustained pressure at the top of the crease by Charlie Coyle and linemate Trent Frederic. It was Coyle who finally pushed it across the line for his seventh goal of the season, with help from Jake DeBrusk.
Less than five minutes later, the persistent Coyotes, despite very few shots on net, pulled into 2-2 deadlock when Crouse tipped in a Shayne Gostisbehere blast for his 11th of the season.
“It’s going to happen during the year when you lose games... we’ve won a couple where the puck bounced our way… tonight it didn’t bounce our way,” summed up a diplomatic Montgomery. “Their goalie played great. And I loved the fact we kept playing, no matter what happened.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.