ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues worked their shootout magic again to collect two crucial points Thursday night.
The Blues (25-16-2), who also won 2-1 in a shootout Tuesday night, improved to 5-1 in tiebreakers this season after going 4-10 in 2011-12. They jumped into sixth place ahead of the Minnesota Wild with the win pending the Wild's game against the San Jose Sharks Thursday night.
But the victory didn't feel quite like one for Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. He was visibly upset at the end of the game at officials Mike Leggo and Tim Peel because of a non-call against star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who the Blues felt like was cross-checked from behind late in the third period that ultimately led to Phoenix's game-tying goal from Radim Vrbata.
Hitchcock was restrained by one of the linesman as he had choice words for the two officials as they left the ice. He received a game misconduct after the shootout had concluded.
"A guy almost went to the fifth row," Hitchcock said, referring to Pietrangelo. "There's no ice in the fifth row last I looked ... from behind.
"The penalty that David [Backes] took, you can't take that penalty [that gave the Coyotes a power play that allowed them to score]). Can't take that penalty at that time, and he knows that. But that's not the one that bothers me. The one that bothers me is the dangerous play. We could have lost a player. Never mind they scored the goal. We could have lost a player, and that bothers me. When you're killing a penalty, you're trying to clear a puck, you're in a very vulnerable position. That one bothered me."
Pietrangelo was facing the corner boards and multiple bodies fighting for a puck when he was belted from behind by Hanzal. The puck squirted loose, Ekman-Larsson fed a wide-open Vrbata in the slot and he tucked a shot inside the near post past Brian Elliott with 1:07 remaining in regulation to tie the game.
"I'm not going to talk about the end of the game," Pietrangelo said. "You guys probably want to hear something.
"It wasn't our best game, but we found a way to win."
McDonald was the Blues' first shooter and beat Coyotes goalie Chad Johnson with a high wrist shot. David Perron netted a first-period goal for the Blues and Elliott stopped 33 shots through 65 minutes. He also stopped Vrbata and Ekman-Larsson in shootout attempts. Antoine Vermette fired wide on the Coyotes' first attempt.
"I'd rather win it in regulation, but getting that goal like I said last game in the shootout is huge," said Elliott, who is 7-1-0 in April. "It gives you a little breathing room. It turns out that's what we needed tonight."
The Coyotes (18-17-8) got the tying goal from Vrbata, and Johnson, making only his fourth appearance in goal this season, stopped 29 shots.
"It was a gritty performance by our group," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We were desperate for points and at times we were really strong in the game. The second period we probably deserved a much better outcome than we got, but we hung in there we got a big goal at the end. It's unfortunate we couldn't get an extra one in the shootout."
The Blues jumped in front when Perron scored his 10th of the season and first in 17 games. He redirected Backes' right point wrister past Johnson 9:58 into the opening period. Perron's last goal came in a 4-2 win March 12 against the San Jose Sharks to get the monkey off his back.
"It was more of a gorilla lately," Perron joked.
It was the Blues' first goal by a forward in 205:28 [four games ago]. McDonald was the last forward to score, 9:30 into the third period April 11 at Minnesota.
"It's good to get one for sure," Perron said. "I didn't really see the puck come off David's stick. The D was in front of me and I was able to get my stick on it. My first reaction, I was happy to see the referee point at the goal. I knew they were going to review it and I'm just glad it ended up being a good goal."
The Coyotes had a bigger push in the middle period, but Elliott was up to the task by making 10 stops. He also got some help from his posts -- Rob Klinkhammer drew iron on a break-in with the backhand early in the period, and Zbynek Michalek's right-point shot hit the near post late in the period.
"He was excellent," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "I thought our whole group of defensemen did a heck of a job because we put them under siege with turnovers in the neutral zone for the whole second period. I thought out [defensemen] did a great job bailing us out of trouble, helping us. We competed harder on pucks in the third period, but we did not compete near hard enough on pucks in the first two periods. Up front, we (had) too many turnovers, too many pucks came back on us, they stuck us on the three-quarter ice game. You're not going to win like that. The goalie saved us today."
Phoenix got the late power play when Backes was called for boarding Ekman-Larsson in the offensive zone. When the Coyotes scored, they felt like they had the momentum.
"There was a big scrum in the corner and the puck came out and I was just by myself and they saw me," Vrbata said. "I was able to put it in, so a big point. We were still playing there and now will have to go to Chicago and get some points there."
Johnson kept the Blues from winning in overtime when he made a stop on Chris Stewart's breakaway attempt with 1:54 left in overtime.
"Just very solid," Tippett said of his goalie. "Very solid. All you can ask from your goaltender is give yourself a chance to win. Just stop the ones you're supposed to stop and the one that got by him was a high deflection and that's just the way the game goes sometimes. He made some great stops for us and kept us in the game, gave us a chance to get a point."
The Blues host the Dallas Stars on Friday night. Hitchcock wants a better effort.
"I was not happy with the game in general," Hitchcock said. "We did not play very well and got away with two points, so we'll take the two points and move on, but we didn't play the way we need to play. If we play like this tomorrow, it's not gonna look good. I was not happy with the way we played, and we can't play like that at this time of year.
"I'm not sure if maybe we looked at maybe we could play a different way again, but we found a way to play proper and to do things and we got completely away from it today."
|David Perron (10) ASST: David Backes (19), Alex Pietrangelo (17)|
1 - 0 STL
|PPG - Radim Vrbata (8) ASST: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (19), Martin Hanzal (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|1||A. McDonald||A. Vermette|
|2||C. Stewart||R. Vrbata|
|3||A. Steen||O. Ekman-Larsson|
|Ryan Reaves Fighting (maj) against Paul Bissonnette|
|Paul Bissonnette Fighting (maj) against Ryan Reaves|
|Keith Yandle Slashing against Chris Stewart|
|Chris Porter Too many men/ice - bench|
|Antoine Vermette Holding against Andy McDonald|
|Alexander Steen Roughing against Radim Vrbata|
|Alex Pietrangelo Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Rostislav Klesla Cross checking against David Backes|
|David Backes Cross checking against Rostislav Klesla|
|David Backes Boarding against Oliver Ekman-Larsson|
|Game Misconduct - Head coach|