Arizona Coyotes Radim Vrbata and St. Louis Blues Alexander Steen hold onto each other during the first period at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 27, 2017. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
ST. LOUIS -- There was a long stretch this season when Jaden Schwartz had to find satisfaction in ways other than scoring goals for the St. Louis Blues.
During a stretch of 25 games, his only goal came into an empty net. His teammates and coaches kept telling him that when he finally did begin to score, it might be hard to stop him.
Schwartz certainly hopes that turns out to be the case.
He scored two goals and assisted on another Monday night to lead the Blues to a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. He has now scored four goals in his last four games, giving him 18 for the season, after the 25-game drought.
"A lot of games you get chances and they don't go in," Schwartz said. "You learn from it. Guys go through different slumps at different times in their career. You just try to stick with it and do the right things and make adjustments in your game.
"It's obviously a little nicer when they are going in. Maybe it just relaxes you a little bit."
Schwartz had some help from linemates Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. Steen assisted on all four Blues goals, the first four-assist game of his career, and Tarasenko scored his 35th goal of the season and added two assists.
"Both of those guys have great vision and make great plays," Schwartz said. "When we're at our best, we're moving our feet and working hard and not trying to be too cute. We get to work first, get to the net, and focus on making plays after that."
Steen was impressed by how well Schwartz continued to play during the long stretch when he was not scoring goals.
"It's what we've been talking with him about for a long time, even when he wasn't scoring he was contributing in so many ways," Steen said. "You get that many chances and are doing the right things and playing the team game the way he does, eventually it turns in your favor. He's been playing great for us all year."
Coach Mike Yeo was among those who believed Schwartz was too good a player for that slump to continue much longer.
"Law of averages, if he continued to get the chances that he was going to get, it would be inevitable that the pucks would go in," Yeo said. "He's been more than due and it's good to see him get rewarded."
The win improved St. Louis' record to 10-1-1 in its last 12 games as it remained one point behind Nashville in the race to finish third in the Central Division.
The Predators won 3-1 on the road Monday night against the New York Islanders. St. Louis also remained two points behind Calgary for the top wild-card spot after the Flames beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Monday night.
Schwartz put the Blues in front 7:53 into the second period when he converted a pass from Steen behind the net. Alex Pietrangelo increased the lead to 2-0 at 12:28 of the period, picking up a loose puck and firing a wrist shot past goalie Mike Smith.
After the Coyotes cut the lead to 2-1 on a goal by Anhony DeAngelo 1:01 into the third period, Schwartz responded with his second goal of the game at 10:06 of the third period. He had a chance for the hat trick on a three-on-one break in the cloing minutes of the game, but Steen was not able to get him the puck and Tarasenko ended up getting the goal.
Beating the Coyotes is nothing new for the Blues, who are 13-0-1 in their last 14 games against the Coyotes and have not lost to Arizona in regulation since 2012. The loss dropped the last-place Coyotes to 1-4-1 in their last six games.
Despite the loss, it was a special night for Arizona's Clayton Keller, a St. Louis native who made his NHL debut. He was the seventh overall pick in last summer's draft and signed an entry-level contract on Sunday after his Boston University team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament.
"It was a really special moment getting to start, it's something I will remember forever," Keller said. "You only have one first NHL game."
Keller got a special greeting from Tarasenko as the two starting lines took the ice before the opening faceoff.
"It was awesome for him to come up and say congratulations on your first one," Keller said. "He's an unbelievable player and he's someone that I watched a couple of years ago. He's a star player in the league and someone I definitely look up to."
Arizona coach Dave Tippett was pleased with Keller's debut.
"He's got good skill he's certainly not worried about getting in any confrontations," Tippett said. "He plays hard along the wall and he's not a big guy, but he competes hard and he looks like a hockey player. He's got great hockey sense. He watches how he manages his game between line changes. It was a good start for him."
NOTES: LW Clayton Keller had 14 minutes of ice time in his debut. He did not register a shot on goal. ... The Blues said RW Dmitrij Jaskin is "close" to returning to the lineup after suffering an upper-body injury. He has missed the last seven games. ... C Alexander Burmistrov was back in the Arizona lineup after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury. ... The Blues and Coyotes will play the second half of back-to-back games on Wednesday night in Arizona.