Local hockey fans flocked to Tucson Arena on Monday night to watch the Anaheim Ducks defeat the Arizona Coyotes 6-4 in a festive preseason exhibition game.
Around 5,000 people showed up to watch the first NHL game played in Tucson in two decades.
The game featured some local flair, as Tucson Roadrunners regulars Brendan Perlini and Kyle Wood scored the first two goals of the night.
The Coyotes have used preseason play to give on-the-cusp prospects an opportunity to earn a spot with club.
Perlini, who was promoted from Tucson to Phoenix late last season, opened the scoring on an assist by Adam Clendening five minutes into the game.
“It was pretty similar to what we had in Tucson last year,” Perlini said of the atmosphere. “It’s great to have hockey in the area, and I think it’s getting bigger and bigger here. That’s the main thing.”
Perlini, a 2014 first-round draft pick, is likely up in the big leagues for good.
His former Tucson teammate, Kyle Wood, scored the second goal of the night on a power play assisted by Anthony Duclair late in the first period.
The Coyotes did not play Christian Fischer, another Roadrunner aiming for a spot on Arizona’s 23-man opening day roster.
The Ducks struck back early in the second period on a shorthanded goal by Nick Ritchie.
Moments later, a costly turnover led to a fast-break shorthanded score by Anaheim’s Logan Shaw.
Dylan Strome, another young prospect in the Coyotes organization, gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead with just under eight minutes to go in the second period.
The Coyotes and Ducks then traded goals in a span of 11 seconds.
Mario Kempe put Arizona on top 4-2 before Anaheim’s Brandon Montour’s shot hit Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue in the neck area, forcing Domingue to leave the game.
Marek Langhamer, a constant presence in the net for the Roadrunners last season, replaced Domingue at goalkeeper.
Langhamer, in his second appearance with the Coyotes this preseason, allowed three Anaheim goals.
Arizona, which was the aggressor the first two periods, took its foot off the gas, according to Perlini.
“We went on cruise control (rather) than staying on the pedal, and ultimately they got a couple,” Perlini said.
The Ducks tied the game on a deflection shot by Dennis Rasmussen and then took the lead on a score by Richard Rakell with 8:02 to go.
The Ducks’ Ritchie put Anaheim up 6-4 in the final moments of the game.
The Coyotes have two more preseason games before their season opener at Anaheim on Oct. 5. In that time, Arizona will trim its roster, moving most of its younger prospects to Tucson.
The Roadrunners begin their season against the Ducks’ American Hockey League affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, on Oct. 7. That game will start at 7 p.m. at the Tucson Arena.