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Wedgewood brilliant in shutout of Devils, his former team

Arizona Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood (31) deflects a shot as New Jersey Devils' Marcus Johansson (90) skates in during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Scott Wedgewood said all the right things at the Coyotes morning skate on Saturday. It would be fun to face his former team, the New Jersey Devils, that night at Gila River Arena, but it was just another game.

It was not, and Wedgewood played like it was not.

The Coyotes goalie made 27 saves, Derek Stepan had a goal and an assist, and Dylan Strome scored his first NHL goal in Arizona’s 5-0 win against the Devils.

The shutout was the second of Wedgewood’s career and helped the Coyotes end a three-game losing streak.

“It means a lot,” said Wedgewood, whom the Coyotes acquired from the Devils on Oct. 28 for a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. “When you get traded you want to put up a strong effort back to where you came from and show them, not that they made the wrong decision, obviously it’s a business, but on a personal level you want to get out there and play well.”

The score was a clear indication of this fact, but this was the Coyotes’ most complete game of the year. Except for a segment of the second period in which Wedgewood held the fort while New Jersey made its push, Arizona was in control.

“That was our best execution game,” Stepan said. “We’ve had some games where we played 57 minutes way better… but obviously a 5-0 win in this league, you don’t get many in this league and you have to play extremely well to get that.”

The Coyotes jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one period on goals that bookended the period. Stepan stole a puck from Devils defenseman Andy Greene in the corner and found Jason Demers at the right circle. Demers’ wrist shot through Brendan Perlini’s screen beat goalie Keith Kincaid inside the far post for a 1-0 lead 34 seconds into the game.

The Coyotes made it 2-0 at 19:35 of the first when Tobias Rieder settled a bouncing puck near the crease and slipped a pass to Stepan at the far post for a tap-in. Stepan has 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 34 career games against the Devils.

Wedgewood made a pair of critical saves in the second period to preserve the shutout and keep the Devils at bay. He stopped Drew Stafford’s backhand with his right pad at 1:50, and he stopped Stefan Noesen on a post-to-post, right toe save at 12:04.

Forward Jordan Martinook said the latter save energized the team.

“It felt like a college basketball team,” Martinook said. “Everybody was like, ‘hold me back! Hold me back!’ We definitely picked up momentum from that.”

Coach Rick Tocchet called it a pivotal point in the game.

“That’s a two-goal swing,” he said. “It’s 2-1 if they score. They get momentum and they’re pushing. Instead, we make that stop and we score later and it’s 3-0. Those are just huge swings in a game and that’s a 10-bell save.”

Martinook scored a key goal at 17:08 of the second period to make it 3-0 when he deflected Kevin Connauton’s shot from the right point with his stick while falling in the slot — a dive he jokingly referred to as “probably a toe pick.”

Alex Goligoski converted a perfect set-up from Anthony Duclair in the slot to give Arizona a 4-0 lead at 12:05 of the third period, and Strome completed the Coyotes’ first regulation win at home when he took a Christian Fischer (two assists) drop pass and beat Kinkaid between the pads at 13:36 to make it 5-0.

“The first one is the hardest one to get,” said Strome, who said he had no family members in attendance to witness the goal, echoing the time when his brother, Ryan Strome, scored his first NHL goal. “I’m obviously very happy. It feels like it’s been forever but it’s only been 10 or 11 (actually 12) games.”

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