GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Gila River Arena in-house entertainment crew chose the Benny Hill theme, “Yakety Sax,” for the first intermission of the Blues-Coyotes game on Saturday. It would have made more sense to play it during the first period, given the 20-minute performance by the home team.
St. Louis scored four goals on 10 shots against Louis Domingue in an 8:58 span of the first period, and then held off an Arizona rally to post a 6-4 win. The victory was the Blues’ seventh straight in Glendale. St. Louis last lost here on March 22, 2011.
To make matters worse for Arizona, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury when he hooked Blues wing Vladimir Tarasenko early in the first period and seemed to get twisted under the Russian as both fell to the ice. Ekman-Larsson was helped to the bench and the locker room. He returned to test the injury but left again and did not return.
“He’ll come on the trip tomorrow,” said coach Dave Tippett, who does not believe it is a long-term injury and listed Ekman-Larsson as day-to-day as the team heads out on a five-game road trip. “I’m not ruling him out for Monday [in Washington] yet. He wanted to come back. When we looked at it we decided to keep him out.”
The loss dropped the Coyotes six points behind Colorado and five points behind Nashville in the race for the NHL’s two Western Conference wild card spots. The loss also snapped a two-game winning streak.
“I didn’t play good,” said Domingue, who made 30 saves. “The message was loud and clear afterward. I have to stop the puck. We can’t afford to be down by three goals against one of the best teams in the league.”
It all unraveled quickly for Domingue, who has held the Coyotes in most of the games he has played this season and already sits fourth all-time in franchise history for wins by a rookie goalie (12). After Tarasenko scored through a screen just 1:08 into the game, Blues left wing Alex Steen gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead at the 4:22 mark when he cut to the net off the left wing and beat Domingue high to the short side. St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz widened the lead to 3-1 at the 7:49 mark to on another shot to the short side.
When Carl Gunnarsson scored to make it 4-1, Tippett pulled Domingue in favor of recent call-up Niklas Treutle, who made his first NHL appearance.
“Two of the first three goals I wouldn’t even classify as scoring chances. They’re poor. They should be stopped from that angle,” Tippett said of the short-side goals. “We came in between periods and we had a few things to say. I told Louis to get back in there and see if we could stabilize the game.”
Domingue started the second period and the Coyotes tried to claw their way back, getting a second-period goal from Kevin Connauton and the first of two third-period goals from Max Domi to pull within 4-3. Domi has four goals in his last two games and his 41 points are the second most by a Coyotes rookie.
Every time the Coyotes crept within striking distance, however, St. Louis answered, capped off by David Backes’ empty net goal.
“They’ve got a good team and they’re going to make it hard,” Arizona captain Shane Doan said. “If you get behind them you’re really going to be battling to catch up and that’s what we did.”