By: Chad Lynch
Photo Credit: AP Photo/James A. Finley
The Coyotes began their final game of the 2005-06 season with some changes to the line up combinations, including move Fredrik Sjostrom onto a line with rookies Bill Thomas and Joel Perrault.
The majority of the opening ten minutes of play took place between the blue lines as Phoenix and St. Louis tried to find a rhythm that would satisfy their quest for the first goal of the game.
The Coyotes did create some drama in front of the Blues net with 12:30 to play as they fought for control of a loose puck, but ultimately were forced to watch as Blues netminder Jason Bacashihua covered the puck and put to rest any scoring opportunity the Coyotes might have had.
Shortly after the pile up in the St. Louis crease, Coyotes forward Joel Perrault went into the boards awkwardly and came out seeming to favor his shoulder, but never left the Phoenix bench and missed only one shift before returning to action.
At 11:39 of the first, the Coyotes made the first mark on the scoreboard when Steven Reinprecht picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone after a St. Louis defender fell down. Reinprecht then carried the puck deep into the Blues zone, where he drew Bacashihua and the lone defenseman to his side, before he fed a pass back across the crease to captain Shane Doan, who quickly fired the puck into the net for a 1-0 Coyotes lead. Doan's first period tally was his 30th of the season, setting a new career high for the veteran sniper.
Phoenix goaltender Curtis Joseph was called upon to make a series of saves of his own with just under seven minutes to play as the blues rifled off a series of shots form three different angles in the offensive zones before "Cujo" could cover the puck and wait for the whistle.
With Coyotes defenseman Jamie Rivers and St. Louis' Mike Glumac already in the box serving matching minors for roughing, the Blues went on a four-on-three power play at 16:48 of the first as Mike Johnson was sent to the box for hooking.
During the final minute of the opening period, the Coyotes saw Joseph made a couple big stops to keep the Blues from tying the game as the period came to an end with the Coyotes holding a 1-0 lead.
In the second period, the Coyotes added to their lead at 4:35 of the period when Mike Johnson dumped the puck on net from the top of the slot, only to see the puck ride up the stick of Bacashihua and into the net for a 2-0 Phoenix lead.
Less than five minutes later, at 9:26 of the second, Coyotes rookie Joel Perrault raced into the Blues zone on a breakaway, backed Bacashihua deep into the net before he fired a laser of a shot over the glove hand of the Blues netminder and into the top of the net to give the Coyotes a 3-0 lead. Perrault's goal was the first of his NHL career and his second point since joining the Coyotes on March 9, 2006.
After the Coyotes took a three goal lead, the Blues began to try and establish an offensive presence of their own, but every time they were able to get the puck into the Phoenix zone and actually get a drive on net, Joseph was there, often out to challenge the shooter and make the save.
Late in the second period, the Coyotes gave the Blues a huge power play when left wing Dave Scatchard was sent to the box for hooking. But despite having the extra attacker, St. Louis still couldn't find a solution to the Coyotes stifling defense and forechecking that quietly killed off the penalty and led Phoenix into the second intermission holding a 3-0 lead.
In the third period, the spotlight shifted squarely onto Curtis Joseph who continued to baffle the Blues shooters turning aside every shot he faced. In doing so, Joseph kept the pressure off the Phoenix forwards and allowed them to continue to make plays through the neutral zone and try to add to the Coyotes lead.
With 6:40 to play in the game, the Coyotes received a power play as St. Louis' Christian Backman was called for hooking. With Backman in the penalty box, tempers began to get the best o the Blues as Scott Young tried to trip-up Fredrik Sjostrom in the face-off circle and when the Swede refused to fall, Young took his piece of lumber and delivered a vicious cross-check to the back. Sjostrom then took exception and both men would eventually go to the box for matching minors, but the Coyotes were still working with the man-advantage.
A St. Louis rush into the Phoenix zone was quelled when the play was called dead and the Blues made another trip to the penalty box, this time it was Mike Glumac being called for interference.
With Glumac in the box, it would be the Blues who would register the best scoring chance when Scott Young broke in on a breakaway. Young tried to fake-out Joseph to the right and put the puck in on the left side of the net, but "Cujo" followed the play and slid across the crease to make the stop and preserve the shutout.
As the final minute of the period approached, St. Louis Head Coach Mike Kitchen pull Bacashihua from the net in favor of the extra attacker to try and keep from getting shutout, but it was now in the hands of Joseph, who wasn't about to let this one slip away. Joseph made a series of key saves in the waning seconds to keep the Blues off the scoreboard, capture victory and record his second consecutive shutout in a 3-0 final.
FOR THEIR COUNTRY
On Sunday, Phoenix Coyotes Mike Comrie (Canada) and Zbynek Michalek (Czech Republic) announced that they will play for their respected countries in the upcoming 2006 IIHF World Championships.
The tournament will take place in Riga, Latvia from May 5-21, 2006
Earlier this month, Coyotes Executive Vice President & General Manager Michael Barnett will serve as the assistant general manager for Team Canada.