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Barrett Hayton produces on top line; Coyotes shut out Avs

Barrett Hayton #29 of the Arizona Coyotes advances the puck up ice against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period at Gila River Arena on November 02, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Barrett Hayton, 19 years young, said he doesn’t feel like his confidence has gone up or down since he got to the NHL. Maybe that’s because his confidence was where it needed to be when he showed up.

Instead, what’s improving is his feel for time and space. An observer might be able to tell; it didn’t seem on Saturday that the league was too much for him, that the lights were too bright or that the pace was too quick. Case in point: Hayton made a highlight-reel pass between his legs to find Phil Kessel for an equally-impressive goal.

The Arizona Coyotes beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0. Darcy Kuemper got his 17th career shutout and the Coyotes improved to 8-4-1. But fans also got a taste of a new top line, one that featured Hayton, Christian Dvorak and Kessel.

The result was Hayton showing poise all over the ice and picking up his fourth point in six NHL games. Kessel and Dvorak each had goals, though the latter was on the power play.

“That’s why we drafted him,” head coach Rick Tocchet said of Hayton. “He’s a sticky player. He’s in the corners, he stops, he’s a smart guy. He knows how to interfere without getting calls. He’s around the net. He makes good plays. He made a great play to Kessel.

“[General manager] John [Chayka] drafted him because of his hockey IQ. Obviously he’s got the talent, but I think you can’t get enough players with hockey IQs, and he’s got a very high hockey IQ.”

Tocchet credited Hayton with “doing the right things” and said part of his ability to arrive in the league with a high level of confidence could be thanks in part to a strong career with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL and a “high-character” family behind him.

“Guys love him. Veterans have been taking care of him,” Tocchet said. “So it makes it a little bit easier when you have that support group to play in the NHL.”

COYOTES TOP AVS, WIN ON SPECIAL TEAMS

The Coyotes caught the Avalanche at a bad time in two ways: Colorado was missing two stars due to injury (Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) and was on the second half of a back-to-back, having played the Stars on Friday in Denver.

The start of the game looked like the Avalanche were tired. Arizona outshot Colorado 16-7 in the period and took a 2-0 lead into intermission.

On a power play, a shot from Kessel rebounded off Avs goalie Pavel Francouz and Dvorak tapped it in for the first goal of the game. Kessel was credited with an assist, one of two points on the night for him.

Later in the first period, Kessel scored on the aforementioned feed from Hayton, who scooped the puck out between his legs from along the boards in the corner. Kessel fired the puck in past Francouz from a sharp angle. See below:

“[Hayton] made a great play and obviously I got a little lucky there,” Kessel said. “But I’ll take it.”

Apart from the goals by Dvorak and Kessel, Conor Garland also got in on the fun with a goal in the second period. He was assisted by another no-look, cross-ice pass from Nick Schmaltz, and Garland scored in an open net with Francouz out of position.

Garland leads the Coyotes in goals with seven.

A key moment came in the second period when the Coyotes had several consecutive penalty kills in short succession. They clearly looked tired, but Kuemper held strong. The Arizona netminder went on to make 33 saves for his 17th career shutout, and the Coyotes’ PK was a perfect 4-for-4 on the night.

“Kuemps was solid. He was excellent. He was really good,” Tocchet said. “[Colorado] had three or four power plays in a row. That was a tough one for us, because that’s a good power play, and Kuemps was there.

“Even some of their shots, they might look easy to fans, but they’re not easy. They’re hard saves because he’s got to move from one side of the net to the other, and he looked really big in net tonight.”

The Coyotes were outshot 15-3 in the second period, 33-28 on the evening as a whole.

LOOSE PUCKS

— Defenseman Jordan Oesterle, who had been on injured reserve after taking a puck off the back of the head, returned to action on Saturday. He logged 16:00 of ice time and had a secondary assist on Kessel’s goal. He also had two hits and two blocked shots.

— Lawson Crouse and Nazem Kadri dropped the gloves and both received fighting majors, along with one additional two-minute minor for each of them (roughing for Kadri, slashing for Crouse). Kadri went down quickly after the fight began and Crouse landed a punch or two before the officials could intervene.

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