The Arizona Coyotes paid much more attention to detail in the second game of this two-game series with the St. Louis Blues, and it paid dividends up until a very shaky ending.
Ilya Lyubushkin made his season debut and Antti Raanta his second start of the year in an outstanding effort in St. Louis’s Enterprise Center on Thursday night. Folks, I have to ask this right from the get go: Did it seem to you as if you were watching the first 10 minutes of Tuesday night’s game all over again? Did you also think how Tuesday night’s game could have been drastically different if the hard-charging Coyotes’ offense would have been able to finish their shots in the first half of that first period?
Thursday’s initial effort by the Yotes was eerily similar to the game two nights ago, and although the team couldn’t finish their shots early on, the Coyotes ultimately scored twice in the first stanza. I offer you Exhibit A: Christian Dvorak sent a no-look, between the legs pass up ice to Drake Caggiula, who in turn sent a perfect pass from the left corner to a streaking Tyler Pitlick. The result: Score! Later on, Conor Garland sped past Blues super-sized defender Colton Parayko and shot the ol’ biscuit into Binnington’s left pad. As the puck sat just outside the goal line, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz almost simultaneously poked at the frozen piece of rubber, with Keller ultimately getting credit for the goal.
The payoff for the continuous hustle by the Desert Dogs resulted in their third goal of the game just 5 minutes into the second period. Conor Garland put the puck into an open net following a save by Binnington on a Jason Demers shot. The Yotes effectively played tight defense and were able to keep the Blues from keeping the puck in their offensive zone for any length of time. Jakob Chychrun was called for an inadvertent high sticking penalty on David Perron midway through the second period, but the Blues could not convert the opportunity to cut the margin.
The Blues collectively forced the issue throughout the third period, pulling goalkeeper Jordan Binnington with nearly 5 minutes remaining. The result: They scored with a 6 on 5 man advantage, and then again 6 on 5 at 18:49, and finally scored a third time, again at 6 on 5, before the end. Fortunately, Christian Dvorak was able to score an open net goal that eventually represented the winning goal.
When the goalkeeper is “on,” the defenders are playing tightly on their men and tracking them, and the attacking players head north and south with maximum puck possession time, good things are bound to happen – and for the most part they did.
Bonus observation in a much-needed win: It sure felt good to see Ilya Lyubushkin bang some of the hefty Blues players bodies around!
IMPORTANT SCHEDULING NOTE: The Coyotes were notified by the NHL that they will remain in St. Louis and play the Blues twice more, February 6 and 8, before returning to Arizona.