GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes lumbered around the ice for 26 minutes, running into each other on power plays, watching as the free-and-loose St. Louis Blues whipped past.
A timeout by coach Dave Tippett was all the Coyotes needed to right themselves, though that wasn’t his intention.
Sparked by a break designed for resting not berating, Phoenix overcame a sluggish start to beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 Tuesday night and move within a point of San Jose in the Pacific Division.
“Guys were tired and it was more about giving them a break,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said of the timeout. “We’d been hemmed in our zone and he was trying to turn it around.”
Phoenix was booed by the small hometown crowd late in a lackadaisical first period and was again sluggish to start the second. His team stuck in its zone for what felt like two solid minutes, Tippett called a timeout after an icing so the players could catch their breath.
Their lungs done searing, the Coyotes got back to playing their style of game, scoring opportunistic goals while getting steady goalkeeping from Ilya Bryzgalov.
Ray Whitney scored not long after the timeout, Lauri Korpikoski had an assist and followed with another goal, and Radim Vrbata had an assist on both. Bryzgalov made the one-goal lead stand, stopping 29 shots to give Phoenix 40 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history.
“We were looking for anything to turn it around,” Tippett said.
The Blues are a longshot to make the playoffs, but it didn’t stop them from taking advantage of Phoenix’s listless start.
Creating numerous scoring chances in the first period, St. Louis took a one-goal lead on Kevin Shattenkirk’s eighth goal midway through and still had the Coyotes on their heels to start the second.
The Blues just couldn’t keep up once the Coyotes got going, leading to their fifth loss in six games.
“From an offensive zone perspective, I thought we found the right areas,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “We’re going to have to get to the interior, especially with a guy like Bryzgalov in the net.”
Phoenix suffered a frustrating loss to Chicago on Sunday, thanks to a late power-play on a holding call against Doan that the Coyotes disagreed with.
Phoenix had been on a roll before that, scoring at least three goals in seven straight games while earning a point in each (6-0-1). That put the Coyotes within reach of the Sharks in the Pacific with two weeks left.
With their lopsided loss to the Sharks on Saturday, the Blues had dropped 12 points out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with 10 games left. Worse yet, St. Louis has five teams to pass to get to that eighth spot.
Early on, Phoenix played like the team out of the playoff picture, not the Blues.
The Coyotes looked scattered in the first period, labouring through big chunks of time in their own end and spending most of their two power plays chasing pucks the Blues had cleared to the other end as the small hometown crowd booed.
Shattenkirk put the Blues up midway through, one-timing a pass from Chris Stewart, who gathered a long pass from Ian Cole at the side of the crease after a long shift in Phoenix’s zone.
It didn’t get much better for Phoenix to start the second period. The Blues camped out in the Coyotes’ zone for most of the opening 6 minutes and Tippett was forced to call the timeout. Tippett also had a few words for his players and whatever he said, it worked.
The Coyotes got their first shot of the period about 2 minutes later and Whitney scored his 16th goal of the season right after that, one-timing a mis-hit shot by Korpikoski to tie the game.
Korpikoski put Phoenix ahead in the closing minutes of the period, sending a wrist shot past Jaroslov Halak’s glove side for his 18th of the season.
Bryzgalov made the lead stand by surviving a flurry of shots in the closing seconds to move within three wins of Bob Essensa’s franchise record of 129 career victories.
“We got one (goal), but we weren’t able to get any sort of distance after that,” Payne said.
Notes: Coyotes LW Paul Bissonette was involved in two fights, early in each of the first two period. He and Blues RW Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves 1:58 into the game and Tyson Strachan got into it with Phoenix’s enforcer 2 1/2 minutes into the second. … St. Louis is 2-20-2 when trailing after two periods.