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Coyotes continue strong start with 2-0 win at St. Louis

by Brian Hunter
Forgive Ilya Bryzgalov if he's not looking forward to turning the page on the calendar. The month of October has been exceedingly good to the Phoenix Coyotes goaltender.

Bryzgalov stopped all 32 shots he faced Thursday night for his third shutout -- tying his career high for a full season -- and the Coyotes continued their strong start with a 2-0 win over the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center.

"They came out with everything they had near the end, you've got to expect that," said Bryzgalov, who made 11 saves in the third period and four in the final minutes after the Blues pulled Ty Conklin for a sixth attacker. "Fortunately, we were able to get the job done and hold on."

Vernon Fiddler assisted on goals by Daniel Winnik and Taylor Pyatt as Phoenix finished a three-game road trip with consecutive wins following a loss to the Rangers in New York. The Coyotes now head home to face Anaheim on Saturday.

At 8-4-0, the Coyotes are off to their best 12-game start since going 9-1-2 in 2000-01  and find themselves right in the middle of an extremely competitive Pacific Division that currently boasts four of the Western Conference's top six teams.

"It was a hard-fought game," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "That's what I think the identity of our team is -- we're going to score by committee and get good goaltending that gives us a chance to win."

St. Louis got fine goaltending from Conklin, who finished with 27 saves, but lost for the third time in five games. The Blues wasted a 5-on-3 opportunity of 25 seconds and went 0-for-3 on the power play, extending their streak of wasted man-advantage chances to 20.

"There were certainly scoring chances there that we should have buried," coach Andy Murray said. "We didn't get the job done."

Winnik, who hadn't put the puck in the net since the season-opener, beat Conklin with a wrist shot 2:48 into the second period to start the scoring.

"Just trying to put it on net and make something happen," Winnik said.

Pyatt, who previously played for the Islanders, Sabres and Canucks, scored for the first time as a Coyote at 2:54 of the third. From there, Phoenix relied on Bryzgalov to do the rest. After posting three shutouts in 55 games in 2007-08 and three in 65 games last season, he has three -- all on the road -- in just 10 games.

"He's phenomenal. He comes up big all the time," Winnik said.

Lightning 5, Senators 2 |

The early struggles during his rookie season are seeming longer and longer ago for Steven Stamkos.

Still only 19 years old, the second-year Tampa Bay center is showing exactly why he was taken with the first pick in the 2008 Entry Draft. Stamkos scored a pair of power-play goals and added an assist in a win over Ottawa that was even easier than the final score would indicate -- the Lightning raced to a 5-0 lead by midway through the third period.

Stamkos opened the scoring 7:20 into the first with the redirection of Vincent Lecavalier's shot that deflected off Senators defenseman Filip Kuba and past Brian Elliott. He also scored the fourth goal for the Lightning at 7:09 of the third with a drive from the lower right circle after some great stickhandling.

"I'm feeling really confident on the ice," said Stamkos, who started slow but still scored 23 goals in his first NHL season. "Feeling better than it was last year. I want to be out there touching the puck and making some plays. It's working so far and I just want keep it up."

Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet knew Stamkos' offensive game would develop, but he's also impressed with other aspects of the youngster's game.

"He's emerging as a leader," Tocchet said. "I'm not going to put too much pressure on him. For a 19-year old, (he's) a pretty good player."

There was no pressure on Stamkos in this game, as Todd Fedoruk, Ryan Malone and Alex Tanguay also scored for the Lightning.

Mike Smith stopped 21 shots and carried a shutout into the third before late goals by Jarkko Ruutu and Alex Kovalev brought the Senators a little closer.

"I don't know if it's fatigue," said Ottawa coach Cory Clouston, whose team played the second of a back-to-back after winning in Florida on Wednesday. "I think that first goal almost set the tone for the game. It was a power-play goal on a penalty that they high-sticked themselves. Those are hard to take."

Tanguay scored his first goal since April 4, when he played for Montreal. The win felt especially good for the Lightning after they absorbed a 7-1 drubbing in Ottawa earlier this month.

"They really handed us a spanking," Stamkos said. "Obviously we wanted to come back and give it right back to them in front of our home fans."

Predators 2, Blackhawks 0 |

Pekka Rinne and his Nashville teammates seized a quick opportunity to return the favor.

Six days after getting blanked 2-0 in Chicago, Rinne turned aside all 22 shots he faced and Joel Ward scored a power-play goal as the Predators won at Sommet Center in perhaps their most complete effort of the season.

"Guys went to the net hard and battled," coach Barry Trotz said. "The power play came through. The penalty kill was good. We got good goaltending."

Jerred Smithson's empty-netter with four seconds left ensured their first win over the Blackhawks in three tries this season.

"We're getting lots of traffic and lot of pucks loose in the crease on the power play," Trotz said. "Our power play has come through the last couple of games.

"We're just pounding pucks, making good solid decisions and going to the hard areas. That's how you have to do it on the power play."

All that work paid off for Nashville during a scoreless game more than halfway through the second period. Following a cross-checking penalty to Cam Barker, defenseman Francis Bouillon threw the puck out in front from the left circle, and Ward redirected it past Cristobal Huet -- who blanked the Predators last Saturday and was doing it again until that point.

"Every coach says that he wants his team to go hard to the net," Ward said. "It is important for us because of our lack of goals. We're missing Jason Arnott and Martin Erat in the lineup. We've just got to keep it simple and make things happen."

Ward's first of the season came with 5:07 left in the second and was all Rinne would need. He won for the second time in as many nights, following a 4-3 triumph over Minnesota on Wednesday.

"It helps any team to get a goaltender on a roll," Trotz said. "Both Pekka and Dan Ellis have been fine."

Chicago, which continues its road trip in Montreal on Friday, got 26 saves from Huet but finished 0-for-5 on the power play.

"You knew they were going to be hungry and desperate because the first two outcomes weren't in their favor," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The difference was we didn't cash in on our opportunities."

Material from wire services was used in this report

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