GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Matt Puempel hasn’t really thought of himself as a goal scorer. After all, he’d only netted two goals in 24 games this season, and that tied a career high.
Thursday night could start to change that. Puempel got two of his three power-play goals late in the third period to help the New York Rangers avert a collapse and beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3.
Puempel – picked up off waivers from Ottawa on Nov. 21 – scored 2:24 into the game for a 1-0 edge and New York built a 3-1 lead over the next 20 minutes. Arizona rallied to tie it on Tobias Rieder’s goal 7:32 into the third, but then Puempel made it 4-3 with a power-play score with 5:20 remaining.
After a goal by J.T. Miller with 26.7 seconds left made it 5-3, Puempel completed his first career hat trick with 16.7 seconds to go by redirecting a pass from Brandon Pirri.
”It’s definitely exciting, especially getting the one so late (to break the tie),” Puempel said. ”My two linemates made a great play and found me in front of the net and I was able to put it home.
”It’s exciting for sure. I had a lot of text messages congratulating me.”
Nick Holden also scored on a power play and Chris Kreider added an even-strength goal for the Rangers. Antti Raanta made 18 saves.
Christian Dvorak and Anthony Duclair helped rally the Coyotes with goals, but Mike Smith stopped just 26 of 31 shots.
Puempel’s go-ahead goal came after a holding penalty against Martin Hanzal. Puempel deflected a shot from near the blue line by Ryan McDonagh for the tally.
Miller then scored an empty-netter before Puempel completed the trick.
The 23-year-old took some confidence from the outburst but was wary of overreacting to it.
”I don’t want to change too much,” he said. ”I just want to keep playing the right way and take advantage of opportunities.”
”He knows where to go,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Hopefully a game like tonight will give him more confidence and he’ll be able to help us out moving forward.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett bemoaned his team’s seven penalties, saying, ”We started taking penalties, and we finished taking penalties. For us to do a better job on the penalty kill, we’ve got to do less penalty killing.”
In the second period, Duclair stick-handled through three defenders and scored to make it 3-2. Later, Rieder scored on a give-and-go breakaway from Radim Vrbata to tie it.
The Rangers are 17-5-1 when scoring first.
After an interference penalty by the Coyotes’ Luke Schenn, the Holden found the back of the net at 8:01 of the first period with just three seconds left in the penalty.
The Coyotes got a goal back with Dvorak’s slap shot from the right side at 15:16 of the first period.
The Rangers scored again at 1:13 of the second period when Holden’s slap shot deflected off Kreider and past Smith. The goal was Kreider’s 12th of the season.
NOTES: Scratches for the Rangers included D Adam Clendening and RW Rick Nash (groin). Nash, who indicated he isn’t particularly close to returning from his second groin injury this month, missed his fourth straight. … Scratched from the Coyotes’ lineup were Ds Michael Stone and Kevin Connauton and C Ryan White (lower body injury). White’s miss was his third straight. … Hanzal is one point away from his 300th NHL point. … Entering the game, the Rangers had won six straight in the series, their longest win streak vs. the Jets/Coyotes’ franchise in their history.
Rangers: Close out 2016 on Friday night at Colorado.
Coyotes: Close out the year Friday night with a visit to Calgary, the opener of a three-game trip.