GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona has found the perfect fill-in for injured goalie Mike Smith, and now the Coyotes are in position for a playoff run at the midpoint of the season.
Rookie goalie Louis Domingue got his sixth win in eight starts, Tobias Rieder had two goals and an assist and the Coyotes beat the Nashville Predators 4-0 on Saturday night for their fourth win and ninth point in five games.
Domingue became the first rookie in franchise history to win three straight games. He’s 6-0-2 as a starter and has a .947 save percentage in those eight games. He made 26 saves against Nashville for his second shutout this season.
“We just make confident plays all over the ice,” Domingue said. “I think everyone was doubting this team starting this season and even a couple of months ago everybody was. Everybody in this room and everyone around the league are starting to take us seriously.”
The Coyotes got a season-long seven-game homestand off to a winning start. Forty-one games in, Arizona is solidly in second place in the Pacific Division with 46 points and hopes are high.
“With the seven games at home you can look at it as almost a full playoff series,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “If we do well in this series it will propel us to the start of the second half. It’s a major focus for us right now, that we have to have a good homestand.”
With Domingue in control, Rieder’s first goal came 55 seconds into the third period. He deflected Martin Hanzal’s slap shot past Carter Hutton for a 2-0 Coyotes’ lead and his ninth goal of the season.
Hutton got the start after All-Star Pekka Rinne played Friday night in a 5-3 loss to Colorado. Hutton had 25 saves in his sixth appearance of the season.
The Predators pulled Hutton with 3 minutes left and Rieder sent in an empty-goal with 2:23 to play. Rieder has five points in three games.
“One of those games where the puck is just following you around,” Rieder said. “We’re playing the way we’re supposed to play. A hard-working team, a hard forechecking team and just fast.”
Anthony Duclair scored with 13.3 seconds left on a wrist shot, beating Hutton one-on-one after failing on a penalty shot earlier in the game.
Arizona has a power-play goal in five of its last seven games. The Coyotes have at least a point in five straight games and 9 of 10, and a third-period goal in nine straight games.
The Coyotes had the first good chance to open the scoring just over 2 minutes into the game. Duclair was hooked on a breakaway by Predators defenceman Roman Josi and was given a penalty shot. But Hutton stopped Duclair’s attempt with his blocker.
The Predators went 0 for 2 on the power play in a scoreless opening period and 0 for 3 for the game. Nashville has lost four of its last five games and is 0-5-1 in the second of back-to-back games this season.
“Is there a concern in the last three to five games? Yeah, there is,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ve got to be better and there’s no excuse. We’ve got to start playing well enough to win games, not just playing games.”
A check from Arizona’s Connor Murphy levelled newly acquired Predators centre Ryan Johansen in the final seconds of the second period. The Predators retaliated and a scuffle ensued while the second period came to a close, resulting in minor penalties for Johansen and Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
NOTES: Johansen delivered a slap to the head of Coyotes F Brad Richardson as the teams lined up for the game’s opening faceoff and Richardson responded with a shove, but tempers were defused. Johansen was booed thereafter. … For Nashville, D Anthony Bitetto, F Colin Wilson and F Austin Watson were scratches. … Coyotes D Zbynek Michalek returned to the second line after missing the past two games with an upper body injury.