ST. LOUIS - Against the rest of the NHL, the St. Louis Blues are an unstoppable steamroller, winning 20 of 27 games and piling up 43 points with machine-like precision.
And then they run into the Phoenix Coyotes, who seem to throw a monkey wrench into that smooth-running machine.
Shane Doan scored shorthanded in the first period to account for the only Phoenix goal, while Pavol Demitra answered with a power-play goal for St. Louis as the Coyotes remained unbeaten in three meetings with the Blues this season (2-0-1) with a 1-1 tie Saturday night at the Savvis Center.
With nine minutes left in regulation, the teams traded four-minute power plays but couldn’t decide the issue thanks to huge efforts by Phoenix goalie Sean Burke (30 saves) and St. Louis counterpart Chris Osgood (24 saves), who were the top stars in a low-scoring but entertaining game.
The Coyotes have now tied their last three road games and gone to overtime in 10 of 20 road games this season.
"Both goalies were outstanding, and both of them had to be because of the scoring chances, ‘’ Phoenix coach Bob Francis said. "We had a more consistent effort tonight, especially in the first period.’’
Hoping to atone for a miserable first 20 minutes in Thursday’s 4-4 tie in Los Angeles, the Coyotes didn’t do much for five minutes — failing to register a shot before center Mike Sillinger was caught high-sticking. But as they did against the Kings, Doan and Daymond Langkow transformed a St. Louis turnover into a shorthanded goal.
Doan’s shot caught the near post and the puck bounced back toward Osgood, hit him in the rear end and finally dribbled into the net for Phoenix’s second short-handed goal in as many games.
The second period belonged to the Blues, and the Coyotes were lucky to escape with a draw. At 5:31, Cale Hulse’s clearing attempt hit referee Marc Joannette and bounced right to Blue Mike Danton. Burke stopped Danton’s first two whacks and just before a third attempt pushed the puck into the net, Joannette lost sight of the puck and blew the play down.
The Blues argued, but the play was not reviewed.
"I guess the ref didn’t see it but that doesn’t make much sense,’’ Danton said. "If the puck goes in the net, it’s a goal. Maybe he felt guilty because the puck hit him, but that shouldn’t be a factor.’’
Burke said the whistle definitely blew before Denton took his last whack. "The puck hit him and after that I was on my back,’’ he said.
"I didn’t see much, but I know what I heard.’’
But the next time Sillinger went to the penalty box, this time tripping ex-Coyote Dallas Drake, the Blues cashed in.
Landon Wilson fell down trying to keep up with St. Louis sniper Demitra, and he was all alone to one-time a Doug Weight feed past Burke at 13:58 to knot the score.
Then came the final eight minutes when the teams traded extended power plays. With Doan in the box for a high-sticking Weight, Burke made big stops on Drake, Christian Backman and Scott Mellanby as the Blues wailed away at the Phoenix net.