Behind Derick Brassard’s hat trick, Coyotes end troubling road trip on high note

It came from a somewhat unlikely source, but the Arizona Coyotes were the recipients of a hat trick by Derick Brassard Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Derick Brassard did something the Arizona Coyotes had struggled to accomplish during their seven-game road trip.

Scoring goals, and he made it look easy.

The 33-year-old forward scored his first career regular-season hat trick in a Coyotes’ 5-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center Saturday night, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Coyotes, snapping a five-game losing streak.

Despite the milestone, Brassard gave little weight to his personal achievement, instead citing the team’s first win since March 8 as the greater accomplishment.

“It’s a special night, but any way you can help the team win, I’m just happy that we won the game,” Brassard said. “The last few days were tough for the team, just being at a hotel waiting, not winning any games. I was just at the right place at the right time tonight.”

The Coyotes reached the five-goal mark for the fourth time this season, but more importantly, they broke out of their scoring slump. The five goals was one more than the Coyotes netted in their previous five games combined.

“We’re all hands on deck,” said Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet. “Brass (Brassard) going with (Tyler) Pitlick and (Lawson) Crouse was a really good line for us. Brass felt it tonight and got some really good goals for us. I thought he had his legs tonight.

“No offense to Anaheim. I think they’re a good team and they work hard, but these are games when you want to fill the net. When things are going your way, you try to push the envelope and try to get another goal. When you’re in a slump, it’s tough to get out of them, so hopefully this will loosen some people up.”

Brassard didn’t waste any time getting the scoring binge started, redirecting a point shot from defenseman Jakob Chychrun past the left pad of Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller at the 17:07 mark of the opening period.

Less than three minutes later, Chychrun scored his eighth goal of the year, extending the Coyotes’ lead to 2-0. The goal and primary assist put Chychrun over the 100-point plateau for his NHL career (101), making him the 11th player from the 2016 NHL Draft class to reach that mark.

“We needed better starts and we got that tonight,” Chychrun told Fox Sports Arizona’s Matt McConnell during a post-game interview. “Guys were working hard and making plays in the (offensive zone) and we got rewarded. That was big for us.”

The Coyotes held a similar first-period 2-0 lead against the Ducks Thursday night before Anaheim, the last place team in the Honda West Division, responded with three unanswered goals that resulted in a 3-2 overtime loss for Arizona.

Finding that elusive third goal was critical for a struggling Coyotes’ offense.

Brassard stepped up again, scoring his second goal of the night on the power play that ended a Coyotes’ streak of 17 power-play situations without scoring.

“It was a downhill play,” Tocchet said of his team’s power-play tally. “We starved for those types of plays and it’s nice to get them. Maybe that will show some guys that if we continue to throw pucks into those areas, it can happen for us, and it did. It was a great play by O (Oliver Ekman-Larsson) hitting Brass.”

On that power-play goal, cameras caught Brassard picking up the puck for his teammate Phil Kessel, who became the 20th American player to reach the 500-assist mark with the secondary helper to Ekman-Larsson before Brassard scored on the shot-pass from the blue line. Kessel is one of 152 players to achieve that mark in NHL history.

“It means I played with a lot of good players in my career,” Kessel said. “I have been fortunate and it’s a nice achievement.”

Brassard didn’t underplay the achievement as much as his teammate did.

“Just to play in this league is a hard thing,” Brassard said. “Phil has been a really good player for many years. Five-hundred assists, that’s a lot, and everyone was really happy for him. As soon as I scored, my first reaction was, ‘Oh, Phil just reached 500.’”

After chasing Miller following the first period, Brassard secured the hat trick with a slap shot from the left face-off dot 36 seconds into the second period, continuing to pour on the offense that was missing over the previous five games on the road trip. Clayton Keller put the cherry on top with the team’s fifth goal in the third period.

“We were playing fast and making plays, and we put a few pucks on the net there. It was just everyone just being ready to play,” Brassard said. “We’ve got to take a page of that first period and try to bring it home with us.”

Brassard’s hat trick gives him seven goals and 13 points on the year, ranking him seventh on the team. Over the past month, Tocchet has been looking for contributions from his forward depth, juggling his lines to find a spark.

When Brassard joined the Coyotes on a one-year, $1-million free-agent contract in December, the veteran center was open to a move to the wing, which he had played primarily throughout the first half of the season.

After struggling to find the back of the net with just one goal in his prior 12 games, it was no surprise to see Brassard back at center alongside Tyler Pitlick and Lawson Crouse on Saturday night – and lighting up the scoresheet.

“I’m kind of open to play anywhere,” Brassard said. “It’s just that I have a different job every night by playing on the wing or at center, but I feel like now there’s like 25 games left and I have to be a center on this team. With Schmaltzy (Nick Schmaltz) and Dvo (Christian Dvorak) and Johan (Johan Larsson) playing some really strong hockey, I think it just makes sense.”

Tocchet appreciates Brassard for returning to his familiar position and making up for some adversity in his 14th season in the league.

“He’s an enjoyable guy to coach,” Tocchet said. “He’ll do whatever you ask. He wants to sharpen his game up. He didn’t like parts of his game. It’s nice to get a game like that for him where he can just loosen up certain things.”

With the win, Arizona completed its seven-game road trip with a 2-3-2 record and remained in sixth place in the Honda West Division standings, six points back of the fourth place St. Louis Blues.
The Coyotes now have their eyes fixed on a pair of back-to-backs at home against the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks with their playoff hopes in the balance.

“We’re right there,” Brassard said. “It’s been frustrating not being able to score for the entire team. But every day we’re trying to find solutions to improve. We just have to build our game. Now we’re going to have a big test at home. We’re not going to be there for a long time, only for 10 days, but we got to take care of those games at home.”

Michael Gutnick My-kull Gut-nick
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Michael Gutnick is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcast journalism and a minor in mathematics. He is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports this spring.