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GLENDALE, Ariz. — If only every day of the season could be like this for the Arizona Coyotes and the New York Islanders.
The Islanders play at the Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Monday night, and both teams must be wondering if they can play any better than they did in decisive victories on Saturday.
The Coyotes (11-28-9), who have had the NHL’s worst record nearly all season, finally found their game in St. Louis, winning 5-2 on a night in which they opened a 4-0 lead. They had lost their previous six games and seven of their previous nine.
Arizona got two goals from center Christian Dvorak and two assists from rookie center Clayton Keller in winning in St. Louis for the first time since Nov. 12, 2013 — and shaking off a recent run in which they lost four of their previous five games in overtime or a shootout.
“We were committed to get inside the dots. … We’re starting to find some traction the last 7 or 8 games.” — @ArizonaCoyotes coach Rick Tocchet after his team’s 5-2 victory over the #Blues. pic.twitter.com/NdmevNOuLP
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) January 21, 2018
“We’re starting to find some traction here the last seven or eight games,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said, referring to Arizona gaining at least a point in six of its previous seven games.
Center Zac Rinaldo scored the game’s first goal after being a healthy scratch two nights before in Nashville.
“We upped our game from every other game we played all year,” Rinaldo said.
The Islanders probably felt similar after winning 7-3 at Chicago behind defenseman Ryan Pulock’s team rookie-record five points — one goal and four assists — and center Anthony Beauvillier’s two goals. Beauvillier has six goals in his last six games.
“We’re an offensive team with a lot of depth in our lineup,” Beauvillier said. “We can score goals and make plays. It was a good way to start the (three-game) road trip.”
The Islanders (24-20-4), still very much in the Eastern Conference playoff race, had lost their previous two games, but they’ve scored 19 goals in their last three road games and 23 in their last four road games. Coach Doug Weight’s team is 11-13-1 on the road.
And Beauvillier is right — the Islanders can score goals. The trouble is they give up even more.
Left winger Anders Lee (27) is tied for second in the NHL and center John Tavares (26 goals) is tied for fourth in goals, and and the Islanders’ 168 goals lead the league.
However, they’ve allowed 176 — eight more than even the Coyotes, whose 168 goals allowed are, by far, the most allowed by any Western Conference team.
Tavares scored three goals and added an assist and defenseman Adam Pelech had three assists as the Islanders beat the Coyotes 5-3 on Oct. 24 in Brooklyn while the Coyotes were losing their first 11 games.
Arizona is only 5-14-3 on home ice.
Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (7-12-5) stopped 25 of 27 shots against St. Louis to win for the first time since Jan. 4.
Jaroslav Halak (14-14-2) stopped 33 of 36 shots Saturday for the Islanders, but it’s possible that backup Thomas Greiss — a former Coyote who made 52 saves last Monday against Montreal — might get the start either Monday or Thursday in Las Vegas.
The Islanders held an optional skate Sunday at Gila River Arena, and defenseman Johnny Boychuk, out since Dec. 27 with a lower-body injury, and center Casey Cizikas, out since Jan. 13 with an upper-body injury, were the first two players on the ice.