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Arizona Coyotes shut out star-studded Maple Leafs

Arizona Coyotes right wing Josh Archibald (45) smiles as he celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with Coyotes center Derek Stepan (21) and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Toronto Maple Leafs have been in headlines a lot since the end of last season.

Whether it’s been their signing of John Tavares, the William Nylander holdout saga, a contract extension for Auston Matthews or a trade for Jake Muzzin to bolster the blue line for a Stanley Cup run, the Leafs have been in the news because of their wealth of high-end talent.

Head coach Rick Tocchet knew that his team would need to play a defense-first game to beat Toronto. He said as much on Friday. He said the Coyotes would need energy in the Saturday tilt.

Arizona won 2-0 and outshot Toronto 29-22, killing four power plays (including a four-minute advantage).

“We had a game plan, we talked about it yesterday, we talked a little bit about it today, and they executed it,” Tocchet said. “To play a Leaf team, as star-studded as they are, you have to execute a game plan and the players were diligent in the game plan. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

The Coyotes blocked 26 shot attempts as Darcy Kuemper earned his second shutout of the season. Arizona got its third win in the last four games and moved to within three points of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

“You can’t let them have time and space and I think that was a big thing we did today,” forward Josh Archibald said. “You’ve got to get on them fast, cut them down and finish your checks on them. A lot of those skilled guys don’t like to get hit, so when you finish your checks they get a little frustrated and I think we did a good job of that.”

The Maple Leafs were denied a would-be Nylander goal, and that was as close as they’d come to scoring. Arizona got goals from Archibald (seventh of the season) and Alex Galchenyuk (fourth in four games). Galchenyuk and Archibald had a combined 14 shot attempts, seven on goal.

Archibald had several high-quality scoring chances at other moments, including a breakaway attempt that he sent wide. With Richard Panik scratched with an illness, Archibald was on a line with Derek Stepan and Lawson Crouse.

“I think when I have success I’m moving my feet and I thought I was doing that well tonight,” Archibald said. “But I mean when you play with guys like ‘Steps’ and ‘Crouser’ they make the game easy. You’ve just got to get to the spots and they’ll get you the puck, and I think that’s what I did tonight.”

But when facing the Maple Leafs, who own the second-highest goal differential in the NHL, it was imperative that the Coyotes focus on defending first to create momentum the other way.

“I think we played solid in our end, didn’t give them that many chances,” Galchenyuk said. “And we throw a lot of puck at the net, create a lot of chances and when ‘Kuemp’ needed to make a save, he did. And obviously a lot of PK, guys stood tall and battled to keep the lead. It was a great game.”

The Coyotes have had a strong penalty kill all season and currently are first in the NHL with a 85.2 percent PK.

“We did a lot of good things,” Stepan said. “Obviously took some penalties and ‘Kuemps’ had to make some saves, and our PK had to hold in there, but overall it was a strong 60 and if you play 60-minute hockey like that, you’re going to find yourself on the right side of things a lot.”

The Coyotes have swept the two-game season-series against Toronto, out-scoring the Leafs 6-2.

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