His actions Saturday only further endeared the veteran to his teammates.
Kuemper stopped 37 shots for his second shutout of the season and slammed an opponent to the ice during a brawl in the second period, and the Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 3-0 Saturday.
"It happens. A little bit of fun, but then we got back to work," Kuemper said. "That’s a big part of our success, is how tight we are as a group. We want to have each other’s back out there."
After Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau cross-checked Arizona’s Jason Demers late in the second period while Demers was down on the ice, Kuemper put the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk in a headlock and flipped him off his feet. Tkachuk came up swinging and landed a few blows on Kuemper in a dustup that also included Calgary goaltender David Rittich barrelling in from the other side of the rink.
The crowd chanted Kuemper’s name as he returned to the net. Three Flames and two Coyotes combined for 14 penalty minutes. Vinnie Hinostroza served Kuemper’s four-minute roughing penalty, and Rasmus Andersson sat for two minutes on Rittich’s behalf.
"It’s nice having my security guard back there, Darcy," Demers said. "We’ve been building towards something the last couple of years, and this season feels different for us."
Demers said he thought the Flames felt he went down too easy on a hit that preceded the fracas.
"Just trying to give it to him a bit, we didn’t like that too much," Tkachuk said. "Whenever something happens when Johnny’s involved, you’ve got to stick up for him."
Derek Stepan, Carl Soderberg and Lawson Crouse scored, and Arizona won for the third time in four games.
Rittich stopped 22 shots, and Calgary lost its third straight.
Stepan was in the right spot to knock down Rittich’s clearance at 6:35 of the second period. The attempted pass up the ice hit Stepan in the wrist, and the puck came down to Stepan’s stick for a shot.
Stepan smiled sheepishly after his third goal of the season and first since Nov. 4 at Edmonton.
"It was kind of a gift. You’re kind of just standing in a spot and you get a freebie," Stepan said.
Moments later, Soderberg scored off a pass from linemate Crouse. It was Soderberg’s sixth goal of the season.
The Coyotes’ best scoring opportunity of the first period came when at the 11:31 mark. Crouse passed to Soderberg for a shot from close range, but the attempt to stuff the puck into the net was unsuccessful as Rittich blocked it.
"We had some good looks but just couldn’t find (the net)," Flames coach Bill Peters said.
Arizona also had back-to-back power plays at 13:03 and 14:59 of the first but were denied. The Coyotes’ power play is just 1 for its last 24 after going 0 for 4 Saturday.
Crouse rolled in an empty-net goal with seven seconds to play to finish off the win.
"He was a beast out there," Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said of Crouse.
NOTES: Flames D TJ Brodie was scratched two days after a fainting and seizure-like episode in practice that led to him being hospitalized. Brodie didn’t make the trip and remained in Calgary for rest and recovery. … D Oliver Kylington, called up from AHL Stockton on Friday, started in Brodie’s place on the third line. … Arizona began a stretch of seven of the next eight games against Pacific Division opponents. … Kuemper and F Nick Schmaltz played in their 200th career NHL games.
Calgary: At Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
Arizona: Host Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.