Coyotes-Blues Game Recap
By: Chad Lynch
Photos courtesy of the St. Louis Blues
The opening minutes of Thursday's contest were spent largely in the neutral zone by both clubs as the teams took part in a feeling-out process. However, the careful play ended at 2:20 of the first when the Blues crashed the Phoenix net and tested goaltender Curtis Joseph with a pair of point blank shots, but were unable to find the back of the net.
With 13:52 to play in the opening period, the Coyotes received a scare when defenseman Paul Mara was hit headfirst from behind, into the glass. Mara immediately fell to the ice and fellow defenseman Sean O'Donnell took offense to the hit and vented his frustration on St. Louis' Jeff Hoggan. As a result, O'Donnell was given a minor penalty on the play for roughing, while there was no call on the hit on Mara.
St. Louis made the most of the power play when Doug Weight carried the puck from his own end into Phoenix territory, dished a pass off to Mike Sillinger, who snapped a shot past Joseph on the far side for a 1-0 lead.
At 12:39 of the first, Ladislav Nagy just avoided serious injury when he was hit from behind, sending his face directly into the top of the boards. Once again, there was no call on the play.
With seven minutes to play in the first, Phoenix was put on their first power play of the game as Weight was called for interference, but the Coyotes offensive attack wasn't able to get past the defense of the Blues and the penalty was killed off without consequence.
After a series of near misses, the Coyotes were ultimately unable to dodge injury as Geoff Sanderson left the Coyotes bench and limped to the locker room with a little over five minutes to play in the opening stanza.
Phoenix forward Tyson Nash made his first trip to the penalty box at 16:06 of the period as his stick inadvertently rode up and hit St. Louis' Dean McAmmond in the face. After giving up a power play goal on their first assignment, the Coyotes penalty killers went back to work and did a good job of keeping the Blues form setting up in the Phoenix end as they killed off the infraction and returned to full strength.
The final minutes of the first period wound down quickly and without incident as the Coyotes left the ice after one period of play, trailing the Blues 1-0.
The second period got of to a rocky start as Doug Weight, who was camped out at the top of the Coyotes crease, took a feed from Dean McAmmond behind the Phoenix net and one-timed it past Joseph for a 2-0 St. Louis lead.
At 2:06 of the second, Phoenix had a chance to get back into the game as Blues forward Vladamir Orszagh was called for hooking. The Coyotes again tried to get some momentum with the extra attacker, but simply couldn't find a seam past Curtis Sanford.
Phoenix had another chance at the man-advantage at 7:58 of the period when Orszagh was again called for hooking, but the power play would last just three seconds as Coyotes captain Shane Doan was called for interference on the following face-off.
As a result of Doan's penalty, the Coyotes and Blues went to work at four-on-four play. Phoenix made the open ice play to their advantage as they set up in the Blues zone. With 11:03 to play in the period and after a brief display of puck movement, Mike Johnson blasted a shot from the blue line that was tipped in front by Nagy and sent to the left side of the net where a wide open Paul Mara easily tapped it into the open net to make it a 2-1 game.
The Coyotes continued to excel at the four-on-four play on the very next shift as a breakout pass by the Blues was kept in the St. Louis zone by Oleg Saprykin, who quickly headed to the net and fed a pass over to Boyd Devereaux, who tipped the puck past Sanford to tie the game at 2-2.
Phoenix went back to the penalty box at 15:05 of the second when Jamie Lundmark was called for hooking. The penalty would prove costly for Phoenix as Mike Sillinger blasted a shot from the top of the right face-off circle in the Coyotes zone at 16:25 of the stanza, that beat Joseph high on the blocker side to give the Blues back the lead at 3-2.
With 1:03 to play in the second period, Saprykin and Blues defenseman Dennis Wideman received matching minors for roughing putting the clubs back at four-on-four play. Neither team would produce any further offense in the period and after 40 minutes of play the teams headed off the ice with St. Louis holding a 3-2 lead.
The Blues brought the pressure on the Coyotes early in the final period as they tried to regain the two-goal lead and essentially close the door on Phoenix, but goaltender Cutis Joseph and the Coyotes defense refused to let St. Louis go up by two.
Phoenix began to get their offensive rhythm going as the period continued and it paid off at 4:54 of the third when Oleg Saprykin snapped a wrist shot form the left face-off circle that beat Sanford high on the blocker side to tie the contest at 3-3.
At 5:03 of the third, St. Louis' Trent Whitfield was called for holding, a penalty that would play into the Coyotes hands as they went back on the attack with the power play. Trying to build on the momentum from Saprykin's tying goal, Phoenix made their way into the Blues zone and worked the puck low to the net where Sparykin once again got the puck, was stopped on his initial shot but was able to get the rebound and slide it into the St. Louis goal for a 4-3 Coyotes lead.
From that point on, the Coyotes dominated the play at both ends of the ice as Joseph saw limited action at the Phoenix net. Playing with the lead gave the Coyotes a confidence and a swagger that they hadn't shown on their current road trip. The Blues tried to find a way to rattle the Coyotes confidence, but at this point in the contest, there was little St, Louis could do to affect the outcome
With less than a minute to play in the game, the Blues pulled Sanford from the nets in favor of the extra attacker, but it was the Coyotes who would take advantage when Shane Doan fired the puck into the open St. Louis net to cap a 5-3 win.