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St. Louis Blues close in on playoffs with another win over Arizona Coyotes

By Craig Morgan, The Sports Xchange
St. Louis Blues close in on playoffs with another win over Arizona Coyotes
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

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The St. Louis Blues moved within a point of a playoff berth on Wednesday with a win over a familiar victim.

Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron scored, and Carter Hutton made 22 saves in the Blues' 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

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It was the Blues' third win over the Coyotes in the past 12 days and their 11th straight win over Arizona. In those 11 games, St. Louis has outscored Arizona 45-14. The Blues are 14-0-1 in their past 15 games against Arizona, and St. Louis has not lost to the Coyotes in regulation since 2012.

"Their goalie was really good," Blues coach Mike Yeo said. "We generated a lot of shots, we generated a lot of quality chances that I think could have really given us an opportunity to put that game away. We didn't do it, but there were some parts of the game that were very good."

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Louis Domingue made 40 saves for Arizona but took his first loss in four March starts.

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"I'm feeling confident," said Domingue, who has stopped 149 of the 159 shots he has faced in March. "The only way to feel confident is by working hard and knowing what you're going to do just because you have done it consistently over and over."

The Blues (42-28-6) moved one point ahead of idle Nashville into third place in the Central Division, with six games remaining for each team. St. Louis leads Los Angeles by 11 points and each team has six games left. With one more point, the Blues would eliminate the Kings and clinch a playoff spot because they have seven more wins in regulation or overtime, an insurmountable lead in the first tiebreaker.

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"For us, it's just a matter of grinding it out," Hutton said. We're trying to finish the job here to get in."

On Wednesday, St. Louis took a 1-0 lead at 9:16 of the first period when defenseman Colton Parayko made a nice play at the blue line to keep a puck onside. Parayko fed Magnus Paajarvi in front of the net, and Paajarvi found Berglund streaking up the left side for a one-timer past Domingue. It was Berglund's 22nd goal of the season, second best on the team.

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Tarasenko, the Blues' leading scorer, widened the lead to 2-0 at 2:25 of the second period, gathering the rebound of Jay Bouwmeester's shot and beating Domingue from a bad angle at the left faceoff dot. It was Tarasenko's 36th goal of the season.

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Alex Goligoski scored on a power play at 14:37 of the third period to end Hutton's shutout bid. On the play, rookie Clayton Keller earned a second assist for his first NHL point in just his second NHL game.

"It's cool, but it would have been nicer to get the win here tonight," Keller said.

The Coyotes have scored one goal or fewer in five of their last six games.

"We didn't generate much tonight, and that was a good lesson for a lot of our young players," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "They're a good team, and they don't allow you to get close to their net too much, and we didn't have enough push-back."

Perron added an empty-net goal for St. Louis with 19.8 seconds left. The Blues are 11-2-1 in March, with one game left on Friday at Colorado, the league's worst team.

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NOTES:

-- Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his seventh straight game with a lower-body injury. Coach Dave Tippett said he looked much better in practice and there's a chance he'll play Friday against Washington.

-- Coyotes LW Clayton Keller made his home debut after making his NHL debut on Monday in St. Louis, near his hometown of Swansea, Ill.

-- Tippett switched up his goalie and went with backup Louis Domingue, who had won his last three starts. Starter Mike Smith played four of five games on the team's recent road trip and is 4-14 against the Blues, with a 3.52 goals-against average and a .885 save percentage.

-- Blues D Jordan Schmaltz replaced D Carl Gunnarsson in the lineup. Gunnarsson was hurt late in Monday's game.

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