Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Boyce
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
St. Louis - Curtis Sanford
On Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes returned to their winning ways as they captured their second win over the St. Louis Blues this season.
Within the first minute of play, Coyotes goaltender Curtis Joseph was called upon to keep the Blues off the scoreboard as St. Louis forward Petr Cajanek fired a shot from the left side of the slot. Joseph made the save and the Phoenix defense cleared the rebound from the front of the net and turned back up ice.
Minutes later, Yanic Perreault tried to grab the early lead with a quick shot from the slot, but Blues' netminder Curtis Sanford was able to make an off-balance save and in doing so, preserve the scoreless tie.
At 4:53 of the first, the Coyotes received the first power play of the night when St. Louis defenseman Bryce Salvador was called for hooking. Phoenix wasted no time getting the puck into the Blues' zone and setting up their offensive attack, but when a shot from the point missed the net and instead hit the hand of Coyotes forward Georges Laraque, St. Louis turned the play back up ice and out of their zone. The Blues' speed turned the rush into a two-on-one, and while they wouldn't find the back of the net, they did force forward Oleg Saprykin into taking a hooking penalty, wiping out the Phoenix power play.
After a stretch of four-on-four hockey, the Coyotes penalty kill went to work against the 28th-ranked power play unit in the league, easily quelling any scoring threats and returning to full strength without incident.
Just nine seconds after Saprykin returned to the ice from the penalty box, Phoenix would find themselves shorthanded for the second time when defenseman Nick Boynton was handed a hooking penalty. This go-around, the Blues began to generate better puck movement in the Coyotes' zone and parleyed that into a pair of shots on goal, but Joseph was able to get a clear view of the puck and control the rebounds as Phoenix killed off the minor infraction and returned to full strength.
With less than nine-minutes remaining in the first, the Coyotes offense showed how dominating they could be when a face-off in the St. Louis zone was won by Mike Ricci and sent back to Ed Jovanovski at the point, where he blasted a slap shot on net. After Sanford made the initial stop on "Jovo's" drive, a determined Ricci and Josh Gratton crashed net and shoveled the puck over to Owen Nolan at the left side of the goal. Nolan made no mistake from there, flipping the puck into the Blues net for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 Phoenix lead.
Nolan took the second step in his quest for the "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" on his very next shift when he dropped the gloves with St. Louis' Barret Jackman. Nolan held nothing back as he punished Jackman with a heavy right hand before the two wound up along the boards and were separated by the linesmen.
Despite the momentum from Nolan's fight, the Coyotes failed to keep the Blues out of the offensive zone and at 15:14 of the period, St. Louis would even the score at 1-1 when a scrum in front of the net ended with forward Dan Hinote lifting a loose puck over a fallen Joseph and into the goal.
The Coyotes and Blues would trade offensive rushes over the course of the final four minutes of play with neither defense giving into the opponents pressure as the first period of play came to a close with the score tied at 1-1.
Shortly after the second period began, the Blues went on the man-advantage for the third time in the game when a clearing attempt by Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek, sailed over the glass and out of play, resulting in a delay-of-game penalty.
Phoenix's penalty killers would only need to kill off 45-seconds of Michalek's penalty as former Coyote and current St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk was assessed a hooking infraction at 1:11 of the second. The ensuing shift of four-on-four play failed to yield much offense for either club, but once the Coyotes power play began, the ice was visibly skewed toward the Blues net.
Phoenix proceeded to get puck towards the net; however, Sanford was flanked on both sides of the goal by his own defensemen who cleared the rebounds away from the crease before they could reach the Coyotes sticks. In the end, neither club would convert on their abbreviated power plays to start the second period.
Curtis Joseph made two crucial stops near the eight minute mark of the period as the Blues swarmed the Phoenix net, before Coyotes defenseman Dennis Seidenberg could capture the puck behind the net and clear it around the boards and out of the zone.
Midway through the period, the Blues came within inches of taking their first lead of the game when Tkachuk made a hard drive to the net, before circling around behind and drawing Joseph out of position in the process. Tkachuk then centered the puck to the top of the crease on the wrap around, but the waiting St. Louis forward was unable to take advantage of the open net as the puck rolled past his stick and up ice.
The Blues offense began show signs of confidence over the next several shifts as they made two seemingly perfect plays around the front of the net, but the one factor St. Louis was unable to control was Curtis Joseph, who made two spectacular sliding kick saves, keeping the puck out of the Coyotes' goal.
After holding off several minutes of an offensive rush by the Blues, the Coyotes turned the tables against their host when Jovanovski carried the puck through the neutral zone then blasting a shot-on-goal from the blueline. While Sanford made the stop, he sent the rebound into the slot where Yanic Perreault was following up the rush and quickly tossed the puck back at the net before Sanford could into position, resulting in an easy go-ahead goal for a 2-1 Coyotes lead. Perreault's goal was his team-leading seventh of the season and 10th point in 11 games.
St. Louis tried to even the score late in the second, but a huge shot block by Boynton, preserved Phoenix's one-goal lead heading into the final period of play.
Off the opening face-off of the third period, Phoenix forward Fredrik Sjostrom nearly extended the Coyotes lead when his wrist shot from the right-hand boards went off the glove of Sanford and hit the left goal post before trickling to the side of the St. Louis net.
Phoenix's pressure was rewarded at 1:25 of the third when a holding penalty on the Blues' Hinote, gave the Coyotes their third power play of the night. Desperate not to fall behind by two goals, the St. Louis penalty killing unit turned in their best performance of the evening limiting the Coyotes offense to two minutes of passing around the perimeter, but keeping puck away from the front of the net until the penalty expired.
The hard-nosed play of Sjostrom would cross the line at 6:38 of the third when he was called for tripping. The Blues power play would turn into a five-on-three advantage at 7:31 of the period when Shane Doan received a minor penalty for holding. For some inexplicable reason, there was no penalty on Blues forward Doug Weight, who knocked Doan's helmet off his head with a high stick on the same play.
The Coyotes penalty killing unit took to the ice, facing 68-seconds of five-on-three hockey. While the Blues were able to cycle the puck freely around the zone, the only shots on goal would come from the point, without traffic in front of the net and Joseph was able to make the saves, keeping Phoenix up by one.
Prior to the conclusion of Doan's minor penalty, a conflict erupted in front of the Phoenix net when a crosscheck by Derek Morris was met by a slash from the stick of Keith Tkachuk. That would set off a furious brawl between the two, with both men landing blows before falling to the ice and being separated.
The final hope for the Blues would be to pull Sanford from the net late in the game, but when the netminder made his way to the bench, his replacement failed to wait until he reached the boards and as a result, St. Louis' man-advantage turned into a penalty for too-many-men on the ice. Playing with an extra attacker for the final 55-seconds of the game and holding a one-goal lead would be all Phoenix needed as the Coyotes held on for a 2-1 win over the Blues.