GLENDALE, Ariz. – Goals came in bunches, momentum shifted with seemingly every shift, players traded big hits.
The game even went to a shootout.
For the fans, it was a great way to finish the hockey season.
For the Phoenix Coyotes, it was a rough ending to what may be their last game in the desert.
Matt Duchene scored in a shootout and had three assists, helping the Colorado Avalanche beat Phoenix 5-4 Friday night and send the Coyotes off to an uncertain future.
“Certainly not the way we intended (to end it),” said Phoenix’s Antoine Vermette, who had two goals. “We would rather get the win.”
The Avalanche and Coyotes are out of the playoffs and played like it in a freewheeling game that was more like an exhibition than end of the season.
Phoenix went up 2-0 early, Colorado answered with a three-goal flurry before the first period was over and the teams traded scores the rest of the way in a wild game that had 18 players earn at least a point.
Colorado won it when Duchene slipped a shot between Mike Smith’s legs in the shootout and P.A. Parenteau scored after replacement goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped a pair of shots by the Coyotes.
Parenteau had a goal and an assist before the shootout and Stefan Elliott scored his first goal in nearly two years. Patrick Bordeleau and Ryan O’Reilly also scored for the Avalanche, who finish the season at home against Minnesota on Saturday.
“We’ve had some tough outings in this building in the four years I’ve been here and after the second one goes in, you’re like ‘oh, no, here we go again,'” Duchene said. “We were able to come back real quick.”
This home finale in the desert ended with the same question as the previous three: Will this be the last game for the Coyotes in Arizona?
The franchise has been run by the NHL the past three seasons after the previous owner took the team into bankruptcy in an attempt to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.
After several starts and stops, the Coyotes appeared to have an owner in place when former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison reached a preliminary agreement with the NHL.
He couldn’t meet a deadline with the City of Glendale on a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena in January, leaving the team in limbo again.
Several suitors have stepped forward, including a pair that submitted proposals to the NHL, but nothing has been finalized.
Phoenix was eliminated from the playoffs with a 4-0 loss at Detroit on Monday and followed with the kind of performance they could have used the previous couple of weeks, beating playoff-bound San Jose at home on Wednesday.
The Coyotes couldn’t back it up with another in their finale, resorting to the type of inconsistent play that plagued them all season.
David Schlemko and Rob Klinkhammer each scored and Keith Yandle had three assists for Phoenix, which had two power-play goals for the first time since Jan. 24 and the third time all season.
“No meaning. Even in an exhibition game, you’re evaluating,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “Here, you’re just playing. That’s what both teams did tonight, just play. It’s good for the fans, lots of action, but as far as a hard, tactical game, I wouldn’t put that one up there in the good books of that one.”
The Coyotes got their home finale off to a great start, scoring just over 3 minutes in when Schlemko skated in from the blue line and sent a wrister past Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Vermette made it 2-0 midway through the period, squeezing a shot between Giguere’s legs after a nice drop pass by Yandle.
The Avalanche fought back quickly, scoring three goals in 4 minutes.
Bordeleau got the first by taking a couple of whacks at the puck before sending it past Smith. Parenteau tied it on a power play, scoring on a wrister that seemed to catch Smith off-guard, and Elliott put Colorado up on a 4-on-4 a minute later with his first goal since Dec. 29, 2011.
The Coyotes tied it on a power play when Klinkhammer lost the puck, flicked a shot from along the goal line and shrugged after it bounced off Avs defenceman Greg Zanon’s leg into the goal.
Colorado answered with a power-play goal with 33 seconds left, going up 4-3 when O’Reilly skated in alone from the left circle and beat Smith with a wrister.
Vermette tied it again on another power-play goal, wheeling around to punch in a rebound after Michael Stone sent a hard shot off Giguere, who was replaced late in the period by Varlamov after going down on a save.
Despite no time to warm up, Varlamov made some big saves in the third period and overtime, then stopped Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata in the shootout to seal the victory.
“It’s a good test of character for these guys and they responded well,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.
Phoenix ends its season Saturday in Anaheim before heading off to a fourth straight season of uncertainty.
Notes: Phoenix LW Paul Bissonnette had an assist on Schlemko’s goal, his career-high fifth of the season. … Giguere played in his 575th game, matching Ken Wregget for 45th place on the NHL’s list for goalies. … Avalanche D Shane O’Brien received 14 minutes in penalties on one play in the third period: 10 on a game misconduct and 2 each on roughing and slashing calls.