GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ray Whitney’s first goal of the season was only the start of his offensive flurry.
Whitney had a hat trick and matched his career high with five points, leading the Phoenix Coyotes to a 5-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
“Opportunistic, that would be the word,” said Whitney, known as a fine passer. “The goals were very opportunistic. I guess at this point in the season I’m waiting to get going.”
Whitney, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata each scored on the power play, and the Coyotes stretched their winning streak to three games. With a goal and two assists, Vrbata had his first three-point game of the season.
Whitney scored his final goal into an empty net. He also had five points for Carolina at Boston on Feb. 8, 2007.
This outburst pulled Whitney into a tie for the Phoenix lead with 11 points. Keith Yandle, who had two assists against the Blues, also has 11.
Whitney’s hat trick was the second for Phoenix in two nights, after Vernon Fiddler scored three goals against Calgary on Friday. It was the first time the franchise had back-to-back hat tricks since Jeremy Roenick turned the trick in November 1999 against New Jersey and Colorado.
Announced attendance was 9,412, the fifth crowd under 10,000 in eight Coyotes home games this season.
The Blues rank second in the NHL in goals allowed, but they’ve yielded 15 in their last three games.
“We waited around to see how this game would be defined, instead of defining play ourselves,” St. Louis coach Davis Payne said.
The Coyotes broke on top early. Vrbata redirected Yandle’s shot from the left point for his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 5:03. Vrbata’s goal was the first Phoenix shot on net, and it snapped a streak of 22 straight penalty kills by the Blues.
St. Louis tied it on a backhander by Andy McDonald at 14:10 of the opening period. McDonald took a pass in front from Patrik Berglund and scored his third of the season.
“It was nice to see the puck go in the net,” McDonald said. “We’re not a high-scoring team, and (against Phoenix) we weren’t enough of a defensive zone team.”
Whitney’s first of the season pushed Phoenix into a 2-1 lead. Blues defenceman Nicholas Drazenovic’s clearing pass in front was redirected by Whitney into the net for his 325th career goal. Whitney has 18 in Stanley Cup playoff competition.
Whitney scored his second less than five minutes later. His shot from the left circle, on the power play, deflected off goalie Ty Conklin’s right pad and behind the line at 10:28. That pushed Phoenix back into the lead at 3-2, after David Backes tied the game on a power-play goal at 7:52.
Whitney’s final goal was deposited into an empty net with 1:48 remaining.
“We’re finding ways to win,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “As a result, we’re getting valuable points at home, so we need to find ways to pick up important points on the road.”
The Coyotes now go on a three-game trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Notes: Phoenix captain Shane Doan missed his sixth straight game (lower back). … McDonald recorded his first three-point game of the season. … Yandle had his first two-point game of the season.