The Arizona Coyotes needed this game in the worst way. They had been struggling as of late, dropping out of a playoff spot amid a five-game losing streak. But a win tonight puts them right back in the hunt and gives them momentum to build off.
But things didn’t start well for the Yotes in this afternoon’s matchup against the St. Louis Blues. The Blues started with all the energy, and it looked like the Coyotes were going to be in trouble.
St. Louis got the scoring started early, with Sammy Blais getting his sixth of the season less than a minute and a half in. Darcy Kuemper was back in net after being activated from IR, and he still had a bit of rust on him, although the partial screen didn’t help.
Arizona didn’t have much of a response, and the Blues kept up the pressure. The Coyotes were spending a lot of time in the defensive zone and eventually were forced to take a penalty with Nick Schmaltz going off for slashing.
The Coyotes had a very aggressive penalty kill, and for a while, it worked well for them. Johan Larsson and Tyler Pitlick had some good looks short-handed, and it seemed like things were going okay.
But late in the kill, the Blues came in with speed, and Mike Hoffman fired a shot on goal. Kuemper made the first save, but Tyler Bozak picked up the rebound and put it into a wide-open net. The Blues a 2-0 lead, and the Coyotes looked like they were in trouble.
St. Louis would stay dominant for a large chunk of the first, and at one point, the Coyotes went over nine minutes without a shot on goal.
But they would slowly start to come alive late in the opening period.
It started with Tyler Pitlick, who was probably the Coyotes’ best player in the opening period. He kept the puck alive in the Blues’ zone and drew a penalty when Justin Faulk was called for holding.
The Coyotes weren’t able to convert on that chance, but that and the final minute of the period were signs of hope. The Coyotes finally were starting to wake up.
Arizona started the second period looking like a completely different team. And they set the pace early, with Alex Goligoski getting a pass from Nick Schmaltz below the goal line and firing it home.
IT'S A ONE GOAL GAME! ALEX GOLIGOSKI!!! pic.twitter.com/htv8T7vlu0— Bally Sports Arizona (@BallySportSAZ) April 17, 2021
And with that, the comeback had begun. The Coyotes continued to dominate in the second, spending most of the game in the Blues’ zone. Arizona’s forecheck was a thing to watch, and even when the Blues were able to clear the zone the Coyotes quickly retook control and brought it back.
Midway through the period, the Coyotes got their second power play of the game. It didn’t take long for the Desert Dogs to tie it up, with Clayton Keller firing a wrist shot from the faceoff circle past Jordan Binnington.
Keller always brings his A-Game against his hometown team, and it was suddenly a very different game.
Arizona kept up the pressure, and the period ended with the score tied and the Coyotes outshooting the Blues 20-15, with St. Louis limited to 4 shots during the second.
But the Coyotes would need to get that ever-elusive third goal if they wanted the win. And they got it early in the third period.
It was a simple play, the Coyotes had gained the zone, and Christian Fischer passed it back to Jakob Chychrun at the point. Michael Bunting was posted in front of Binnington, and he redirected Chychrun’s shot into the back of the net.
The Coyotes did the smart thing and kept up the pressure.
Too many times, we’ve seen the Coyotes switch to a defensive style when they have the lead. But tonight, they just kept up the pressure and made the Blues play defense.
St. Louis would pull Binnington with 2:28 left in the game, and that was the closest they came to tying the game. And Arizona didn’t look great 6-on-5, and they suddenly had problems clearing the zone.
The Yotes would bend, but they didn’t break. St. Louis didn’t get the equalizer, even with the extra attacker, and the Coyotes broke the losing streak and retook their playoff spot.
- Before this afternoon's game, the Coyotes inducted Leighton Accardo into the Ring of Honor and had a very moving tribute to her.
A beautiful life packed into 9 years.— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) April 17, 2021
A beautiful legacy just getting started.
Today, Accardo 49 joins our Ring of Honor forever. pic.twitter.com/7UkXSnj8qz
- Darcy Kuemper returned from injury and got the start. He had a bit of rust, but the team gave him easy second period, and he looked better as the game went along.
- Also returning from injury was the Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko.
- After the first period with the Coyotes down 2-0, Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said they were going to turn things around and get a win for Leighton's family. They did.
- The "Short Leash" line was reunited and looked really good. Conor Garland didn't get a goal, but he came close several times and had the most shots (4).
- Arizona took only one penalty during the game. Both teams should have been called for multiple things during the third period, but the refs had put their whistles away by then.
- Michael Bunting has 7 goals in 10 games this season. He played 12:25 today, including 1:50 on the power play.
- Michael Bunting - Game-winning goal
- Clayton Keller - 1 goal
- Jakob Chychrun - 1 assist, 3 SOG
The Coyotes play the Minnesota Wild on Monday at 6:00 pm Arizona time.