The Arizona Coyotes were greeted by a sea of mullets, the NHL’s smallest arena filled with fans revved up for a new season.
The Coyotes got the party off to a great start with two energy-boosting goals. The Winnipeg Jets pulled the plug in overtime.
Blake Wheeler scored 32 seconds into overtime and the Jets spoiled the Coyotes’ Mullett Arena debut with a 3-2 victory Friday night.
“A tough way to end it, right?” Coyotes forward Christian Fischer said. “I felt we deserved better.”
Arizona opened the season with six straight road games before returning to the desert and The Mullett.
Mullett Arena, Arizona State University’s new arena, is by far the smallest venue in the NHL and a temporary home until a permanent one is built.
The Coyotes had the early jump in front of 5,000 mullet-wearing fans – headbands with long locks were the giveaway – going up 2-0 on Christian Fischer’s first-period goals.
The Jets whittled their way back.
Cole Perfetti scored in the first period and Winnipeg picked up the pressure in the third, tying it on Mark Scheifele’s goal.
David Rittich, who stopped 19 shots, made a couple of nice saves to start overtime, and Wheeler beat Karel Vejmelka on a one-timer after Pierre-Luc Dubois created a 2-on-1 after stealing the puck from Shayne Gostisbehere.
Vejmelka had 32 saves.
“We played last night in LA and those first periods are always tough, but we stuck with it,” Wheeler said. “You leave those games close on a back to back, tied or down a goal, you’ve got a chance.”
The Coyotes got the Mullett party off to a rousing start.
Fischer scored the first NHL goal in Mullett Arena history midway through the first period, when Troy Stecher’s shot from the right circle hit him shoulder and caromed pass Rittich.
That’ll be something that I’ll probably hold over the boys the next several years, let them know that little history on myself for that goal,” Fischer said.
Fischer also had the second goal, beating Rittich glove side off a faceoff win.
Then the Mullett momentum switched.
Perfetti scored 26 seconds later after pickpocketing Josh Brown along the boards, flipping a shot over a prone Vejmelka following some nifty stickhandling.
Rittich and Vejmelka stole the show in the second period, each making difficult close-range saves through traffic.
Scheifele tied it with his sixth goal of the season midway through the third, whipping in a rebound after Vejmelka got jammed on a high shot.
The Jets ended up rallying to win it, just like they did the night before after a slow start against the Kings.
“Obviously, we’re like to have a better start and coming into another team’s building, they’re going to have an early jump,” Perfetti said. “That said, it goes to show a lot about our group and what we can do.:
The ice is the same size as any other arena, but the closed-in feeling at Mullett Arena, coupled with pristine ice, had the players feel like they were flying around.
“I know it’s the same size, but the game comes faster when it’s a smaller rink,” Fischer said. “Any of the guys that play those pre-season games elsewhere – we played a bunch of them – the game comes quicker for whatever reason.”
Winnipeg is 0 for 14 on the power play – 0 for 5 Friday – the past four games and 2 for 24 overall. ... Coyotes D Jakob Chychrun missed his seventh straight game after suffering a recent setback in his recovery from off-season wrist surgery. ... Jets D Logan Stanley missed his second straight game after getting banged up on a blocked shot Monday against St. Louis.
Jets: At at Vegas on Sunday.
Coyotes: Host the New York Rangers on Sunday.