Kuemper stops 44 shots, Coyotes hold off Predators
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Darcy Kuemper might not have imagined that by the end of Thursday night, he’d have played in as many games as the goalie he backs up, the injured Antti Raanta.
Kuemper had a career-high 44 saves in his sixth straight game in net, and the Arizona Coyotes held off the Western Conference-leading Nashville Predators 2-1.
Kuemper kept a shutout going until Nick Bonino scored with 7:51 to play.
“Sometimes it’s nice seeing a lot (of shots). It’s easier to just get in a rhythm,” Kuemper said. “I felt good and the guys were doing a great job in front of me.”
The Coyotes (9-8-1) got goals from Michael Grabner and Jason Demers in their second win in six games. Arizona played the first of five straight home games after going 4-1 in its previous five-game homestand.
Demers left with an apparent leg injury with 37.1 seconds to play after crashing into his own net. There was no update on his status after the game.
Nashville (13-5-1) finished a five-game road trip — which included three games against Pacific Division teams — with five points, but lost its third straight. Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots.
“Their goalie played really well and they’re a good team,” Nashville’s Roman Josi said. “They’re fast. Every time we turned it over they took it back really quick. We played really hard but it just didn’t go our way.”
The Predators’ Kyle Turris hit a post at the 12:22 mark of the third period. Nashville took out Rinne for an extra attacker inside of two minutes to play.
“That team is built to win a Stanley Cup and we beat them 2-1,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “It was a little ugly but the PK (penalty kill) and ‘Kemps’ (Kuemper) won us the game.”
The Coyotes scored their NHL-best 10th short-handed goal at 7:16 of the first period. Grabner had open ice on a power-play clearance and scored from just in front of the blue line to give Arizona a 1-0 lead.
Four of Grabner’s five goals this season have been short-handed, and he leads the league in that category. Grabner has 19 short-handed goals since 2010, second only to the 23 for Brad Marchand of Boston.
“Sometimes what it takes is a bounce to settle you down a little bit,” Grabner said. “It was nice to come back on after one (period) with the lead.”
Demers put a wrist shot past Rinne on the goaltender’s stick side for a 2-0 Coyotes lead at 4:09 of the second period. It was the defenseman’s first goal of the season.
The Predators were 0 for 5 on the man advantage for their third consecutive game without a power-play goal. That helped the Coyotes maintain their standing as the NHL’s top penalty-kill unit with only five power-play goals allowed.
“The guys were working so hard on it,” Kuemper said. “Giving a lot of pressure and not giving them time to set up and make the plays they want.”
The fifth power play for Nashville came as a result of Josh Archibald’s illegal check to the head of the Predators’ Josh Hartman with 1:41 left in the second period. Hartman was bleeding and had to leave the ice.
NOTES: Predators D P.K. Subban was placed on injured reserve before the game with an upper-body injury, and F Viktor Arvidsson, already on injured reserve, could miss six to eight weeks with a broken thumb. … Nashville activated D Dan Hamhuis from injured reserve for his first game since Oct. 23. … F Austin Watson played in his first game after serving an 18-game suspension for domestic violence. … Coyotes D Jakob Chychrun was scratched with an upper body injury and is day to day, coach Rick Tocchet said. Chychrun, after being out due to injury until his return on Tuesday in Detroit, missed his 16th game this season. … The Coyotes announced Thursday the hiring of former U.S. Olympian Lyndsey Fry to serve as a special advisor to Coyotes’ president and CEO Ahron Cohen. Fry, 26, will also be a brand ambassador for the club.
Arizona hosts the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.