Old-fashioned melee highlights Coyotes’ win over Calgary
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet wasn’t surprised — like maybe a lot of others were — that goaltender Darcy Keumper of all people was the one to take down an opponent in a headlock.
“No. Kuemps is a team guy,” Tocchet said. “When you see a goalie do that then it’s infectious, right? You want to help your teammates out.”
The one Kuemper was wrestling down, Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, even said he was surprised to realize it was the goaltender who reacted so harshly to the events that played out in a Coyotes 3-0 win over the Flames.
It all started when Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers caught Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau with a hit in the corner, and Gaudreau responded with a cross-check to Demers’ back. Demers went down and stayed down.
“I was more worried about the shot coming from the point,” Demers said. “I didn’t feel like eating it in the face. So he was pretty mad about that.”
Gaudreau and Tkachuk gave Demers a couple extra shoves while he was down. Kuemper took exception.
“It’s nice having my security guard back there, Darcy,” Demers said.
“Darcy’s really doing it all, other than scoring goals. I mean he’s an enforcer and a great goalie.”
Tkachuk, the son of former Coyotes captain Keith Tkachuk, told his side of the story to reporters after the game.
“I just thought Johnny maybe got like a little elbow or a little hit late,” Tkachuk said.
“And then he, I think cross-checked him back. I haven’t even seen the replay. But he seemed to go down a little bit easy … we didn’t like that too much.”
Demers said Gaudreau is “pretty strong” and “I felt it” regarding accusations that he went down easy.
“He was upset, he thought I dove,” Demers said. “But listen, that’s the way the game goes. But that’s all I can really say about that. He’s a great player.”
As for Kuemper, him going after Tkachuk was the spark that set the melee in motion to become the spectacle it was.
“I was just trying to get him off him,” Kuemper said. “I didn’t think it would escalate to that. It happens, a little bit of fun, but then we got back to work.”
Kuemper, by the way, also got a 37-save shutout.
THE GAME ITSELF
An early 2 p.m. start, the Coyotes (12-7-2) began the day by hosting Leighton Accardo, an 8-year-old local hockey player who is fighting cancer. She was on the ice in skates for warmups, took the ceremonial opening faceoff (Oliver Ekman-Larsson dropped the puck) and was seen on video signing a contract with the team.
“We are so lucky, we get so many cool things that happen to us,” Derek Stepan said. “And what a special moment for us to have somebody that fights every day, for their life, and is able to come here and have a huge smile on her face and go through her day like it’s a normal day.
“So, it puts things in perspective for us and, yeah, the lucky charm. She might have to stick with us a little longer.”
The Coyotes won, 3-0. Stepan was the first goal-scorer, marking only his third goal of the season.
It came when Calgary goaltender David Rittich tried to clear the puck, but he sent it right to Stepan on accident.
“It’s crazy how the game works,” Stepan said. “You work extremely hard to get looks and they never go in, and then you’re kind of just standing in a spot and you get a freebie.”
Less than two minutes after Stepan’s goal, Lawson Crouse found Carl Soderberg in the slot to create a breakaway. Soderberg beat Rittich and scored to make it 2-0 Coyotes. Tocchet praised Crouse for his play and the line he was on, which also included Phil Kessel.
Crouse also got an empty-netter with 0:07 remaining to make it 3-0.
“I liked our energy,” Tocchet said. “A little sloppy — for both teams — some penalties, some icings here and there. It was sloppy. But I thought as the game went on, we had some energy. It’s tough to find it. The way we’ve been traveling and stuff like that, I’m really proud of the way these guys gave the energy tonight. It was good.”
Shots on goal favored Calgary 37-24.
— That was the second shutout of the season for Kuemper, his eighth with the Coyotes and the 18th of his career.
— Saturday marked the 200th NHL game for both Nick Schmaltz and Kuemper.