Taylor Hall is starting to feel at home in the desert.
Hall and Phil Kessel, Arizona’s two high-profile stars, aligned Tuesday, each with two goals and an assist as the Coyotes moved atop the Pacific Division with a 6-3 victory against the visiting San Jose Sharks.
The Coyotes, who snapped a three-game skid (0-2-1), will look to continue that success when they travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Thursday night.
Hall, the 2017-18 Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the league’s MVP, was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils last month. He has 13 points in 14 games with Arizona.
“‘Hallsy hates to lose, you can tell,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “He’s starting to fit in. He knows the system. He’s asking a lot of questions lately. You can just tell that he’s finding his groove.”
Added Kessel, “Obviously it’s always tough when you get traded, but (Hall) has settled in pretty nice so far. He’s a big help to our team and a big addition. Hopefully, we can all keep it going.”
Kessel understands the difficulties of getting relocated. He joined the Coyotes in an offseason trade with Pittsburgh and scored just four times in his first 29 games. But the two goals against the Sharks on Tuesday gave him 11 for the season.
“I started off obviously a little rough,” Kessel said of his first season with Arizona. “I knew it would turn around eventually.”
To Tocchet, the key is for Kessel to keep shooting.
“Phil’s obviously had some bad luck,” Tocchet said. “He told me (Tuesday), ‘I’ve got to shoot the puck.’ … That type of attitude is what we need.”
Conor Garland had a goal and two assists and Derek Stepan three assists against the Sharks on Tuesday. Goaltender Adin Hill stopped 25 of 28 shots.
“We’ve got a good group here. We play hard, and when we get in these tough situations, I think we bounce back pretty well,” Kessel said. “We got the puck in and went after them, and we created a bunch of chances.”
The Coyotes will need to continue to do that Thursday, as the Canucks have won six straight home games.
The Canucks are coming off a 4-0 loss at Winnipeg despite putting 41 shots on net.
“I thought we played a really good hockey game,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green, whose team went 2-3-0 on its just-concluded five-game trip. “One might say it was our best game of the trip, really. But at this time of the year, as we go down the stretch, you’re going to have games like this where you play well and you don’t win.”
Jacob Markstrom stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced for the Canucks, who were shut out for the third time this season.
“You can always say we played good, but we didn’t win,” Markstrom said.
The fourth-place Canucks enter the game in good health, while Coyotes forward Brad Richardson left Tuesday’s game because of a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
–Field Level Media