TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)The Arizona Coyotes opened the gates for a series of breakaways. Karel Vejmelka stopped all but one.
His save with two opponents bearing down in the second period changed the complexion of the game, sending the Coyotes to another big-scoring night against the St. Louis Blues.
Vejmelka stopped 40 shots, Travis Boyd had two goals and an assist in the third period, and the Coyotes beat the Blues 6-2 on Tuesday night.
“His save in the second period on the 2-on-0, that was: Wow!” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “That was really a momentum changer for both teams.”
The Coyotes got off to a shaky start, giving up a breakaway for the first of Pavel Buchnevich’s two goals, but Vejmelka kept them in it with a series of spectacular saves.
Christian Fischer and Nick Schmaltz scored to give Arizona a 2-1 lead and Boyd put it away with his two third-period goals. Clayton Keller added a goal and two assists, and Lawson Crouse also scored to give the Coyotes 16 goals in three games against St. Louis this season.
“That first couple minutes, not sure what we were getting ourselves into, but we regrouped really well and Veggie always (is good),” Fischer said. “It’s easy to say, but almost every game we’re saying our goalies’ names, but it’s true.”
St. Louis didn’t give its goalie much of a chance and had a hard time scoring in any situation. Jordan Binnington gave up six goals on 27 shots for St. Louis, which has lost eight of nine.
“We have tons of chances. Breakaways, the power play,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “Our power play didn’t click good enough to win us the hockey game.”
The Coyotes gave up 15 combined goals in their previous three games and found themselves in another hole against the Blues.
Arizona had two early icing calls during long shifts in its own end and Buchnevich took advantage of a breakaway, beating Vejmelka to the glove side for his 10th point in six games.
The Coyotes snapped out of it and scored midway through the first period when a pass by Connor Mackey caromed hard off the backboards to the other side of the goal. Fischer easily put it into an empty net with Binnington out of position.
Arizona had more defensive breakdowns to start the second period, giving up a couple of breakaways. Vejmelka stuffed both, blocking Brandon Saad, then making a spectacular glove save on Robert Thomas on the 2-on-0.
“When you do your goalie stuff, probably the whole bunch stands up there,” Fischer said.
The Coyotes gave up another breakaway, this time while on a power play, but Vejmelka stopped Thomas again. Schmaltz scored before the power play ended, beating Binnington from a sharp angle on a cross-crease pass from Barrett Hayton.
Boyd made it 3-1 early in the third period, taking a short pass from Keller and flipping a backhander past Binnington.
Buchnevich scored midway through the third period, lifting a backhander over Vejmelka’s stick shoulder. Boyd pushed the lead back to two goals by punching in a rebound for his first multi-goal game and 100th career point.
“You always go into the game expecting to win,” Berube said. “We just haven’t played well enough or won enough games against non-playoff teams.”
The Coyotes have heard the jokes about Mullett Arena, their 5,000-seat temporary home until a permanent one can be built.
Small as it is, the Mullett certainly gives Arizona a home-ice advantage.
Well out of the playoff picture, the Coyotes are 15-11-3 at home.
“Everybody early in the season was making jokes and everything about it, but I think at the end of the day, it’s a tough place to come in and play,” Boyd said. “Our record speaks to that.”
NOTES: Coyotes F Liam O’Brien did not play due to illness. … St. Louis F Jake Neighbours missed his seventh straight game with an upper-body injury. … Coyotes F Brett Ritchie has yet to join the team due to visa issues since being traded from Calgary on Friday in a deal that included his brother going to the Flames. … The Blues are 2 for 34 on the power play in the past nine games after going 0 for 6 against Arizona.
St. Louis: Hosts San Jose on Thursday.
Arizona: Hosts Nashville on Thursday.
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