TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Jake Guentzel came out of a scoring slump at the perfect time, allowing his team to end one of its own.
Guentzel scored two goals, Casey DeSmith stopped 23 shots and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 Sunday night to end a six-game losing streak.
“It’s kind of a funny game like that,” Guentzel said. “Hopefully that will get me going.”
The Coyotes had the early jump after four straight road games and went up on Barrett Hayton’s first-period goal. DeSmith was sharp on a couple of good Arizona chances early in the second period, then Guentzel scored twice in a little over three minutes — his first goals in nine games.
Jason Zucker also scored, Jeff Carter added an empty-net goal and Sidney Crosby had two assists in Pittsburgh’s first win since Dec. 20.
“It was important to get the win for a lot of reasons, but most importantly I think we need to feel good about what went on out there,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “And I thought we played we play hard. We played the game the right way.”
The Coyotes couldn’t capitalize after turning up the pressure on Pittsburgh in the second period and got shut down by the Penguins for most of the third to lose their fifth straight. Karel Vejmelka had 24 saves for Arizona, which lost for the third time in its last nine home games.
“We had a breakaway, good scoring opportunities, shots from the slot, rebounds, screen shots — we just could not score,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said.
The Coyotes were glad to be back at The Mullett after going 0-fer on a four-game road trip back east.
They wasted little time feeling comfortable again in the NHL’s smallest arena, scoring five minutes into the game. All-Star Clayton Keller set it up, sending a pass across the crease to Hayton for a one-timer.
The Penguins spoiled the Mullett vibes in the second period.
Guentzel tied it six minutes in, one-timing a short pass from Sidney Crosby into the goal before Vejmelka could slide over. Guentzel scored again midway through the period, beating Vejmelka from a sharp angle after first fumbling Bryan Rust’s pass.
Arizona went on a rash of penalties, but the Penguins couldn’t capitalize. DeSmith also had to stop Nick Bjugstad on a short-handed breakaway with Pittsburgh on a two-man advantage.
“Those are the timing saves you need to win games,” Sullivan said.
Zucker put Pittsburgh up 3-1 midway through the third period, sliding across the crease before flipping a backhander over Vejmelka. Pittsburgh limited Arizona’s chances from there and Carter closed it out with his empty netter.
“They had some good opportunities and capitalized,” Hayton said. “I still think we played a good hockey game, but it’s frustrating not getting the outcome we wanted.”
PENS POWER PLAY
Pittsburgh had some great opportunities in six power play opportunities, but couldn’t find the net. The Penguins are 0 for 21 the past four games, but Sullivan and his staff aren’t quite ready to make any major changes.
“There’s always a fine line; you don’t want to over coach it because my experience has been sometimes if you’re not careful, you can get in the way their instincts,” Sullivan said. “These guys are really good players for a reason. They think the game way better than you and I do, so sometimes we try to stay out of their way a little bit.”
Coyotes right wing Dylan Guenther rejoined the team for Sunday’s game after helping lead Canada to gold at the World Junior Championship.
The 19-year-old scored the winning goal in overtime against the Czech Republic Thursday night in Nova Scotia to give Canada it’s 20th world junior gold. He had seven goals and three assists in the tournament.
Guenther played 12:21 in his NHL return, putting two shots on goal.
NOTES: Pittsburgh F Ryan Poehling missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury. … Arizona recalled Ivan Prosvetov from Tucson of the AHL to serve as Vejmelka’s backup with Connor Ingram out sick. …. Penguins F Kris Letang remained in Montreal and missed his third straight game following the death of his father, Claude Fouquet.
Penguins: Host Vancouver on Tuesday night.
Coyotes: Host San Jose on Tuesday night.
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