Coyotes score twice early, hold on late to beat St. Louis Blues

Feb 4, 2021, 9:46 PM | Updated: Feb 5, 2021, 8:34 am
Arizona Coyotes' Drake Caggiula (91) passes as St. Louis Blues' Carl Gunnarsson (4) defends during ...

Arizona Coyotes' Drake Caggiula (91) passes as St. Louis Blues' Carl Gunnarsson (4) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Arizona Coyotes played the second leg of a four-game series against the St. Louis Blues with a 4-3 victory on Thursday, holding on to win despite surrendering two goals in the game’s final two minutes.

Arizona scored a pair of goals in the first period, adding another goal from forward Conor Garland in the second period to go up 3-0 on the hometown Blues. The Coyotes would go on to add an insurance goal in the third period to go up 4-1.

That insurance came up big with the home side storming back with a trio of goals in the final 20 minutes of action, coming up a goal short.

Luckily for coach Rick Tocchet’s team, the Coyotes managed to find the net a fourth time in the third period when Christian Dvorak buried his sixth tally of the year to give the visitors a fourth goal with 2:14 to play in regulation.

The win was the net result of guile and grit, according to Tocchet, who had plenty of highlights and lowlights to assess in his postgame comments.

“Obviously, we got killed on faceoffs. It’s hard to win games when you’re giving the puck to the other team that many times. That’s something that you can’t win in this league if you lose faceoffs at that rate,” Tocchet said.

“Thank god we won tonight. I thought our forecheck was good early, I thought we were on the puck. I liked our neutral zone. So, it was a mixed bag but it was a resilient effort. Like I said, the guys did a good job of showing resilience.”

Garland touched on a similar topic postgame, saying the Coyotes are glad to get through a 60-minute battle like Thursday’s contest with a win, no matter how it happened.

“It was nice to cash in on a few of those tonight. I just think we stuck with them, we had a bunch of chances as well. Phil [Kessel] hit the post, I had one early that he made a good save on. We had some chances late that just didn’t go in,” Garland said. “We knew they were going to make a push. Obviously, you hate to see it get that close but when they’ve got elite players at all six spots on that team, they can snap it around there.

“We just have to buckle down a little bit more and make sure that it doesn’t get that close but a win’s a win.”

The two sides will meet four more times between Saturday and Feb. 15, after the Coyotes’ scheduled games against the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche were canceled because both teams had players on the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol Related Absence List.

Tocchet addressed the difficulty of playing a team that many times, saying it’s difficult for all involved, but it’s the best outcome possible in a bad situation.

“We had four against Vegas, we get six against St. Louis. It’s good stuff. It’s good experience for people on our team to understand what it takes to win,” Tocchet said. “The NHL’s trying its best. We found out this afternoon at 2 p.m. ‘Hey, can we do this?’ and it’s like, ‘Yeah, you have to.’ If not, you push all of these games back and somehow we’re going to get it.

“So obviously the NHL and the Blues and us put our heads together and said, ‘It’s better to play through this.’ Obviously you can’t go back and have two weeks off and then back-fill all of these games.”

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Coyotes score twice early, hold on late to beat St. Louis Blues