During the first two games of the season, the Arizona Coyotes got quality goaltending, prime scoring chances and solid play from their defense.
Now they’ve got a win, too.
Conor Garland scored twice, Nick Schmaltz and Niklas Hjalmarsson each had a goal, and the Coyotes beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-1 Thursday night for their first victory.
Darcy Kuemper made 36 saves in his third consecutive start and Arizona (1-2-0) broke out of a scoring slump after managing just one goal in the first two games. New center Carl Soderberg, acquired from Colorado in an offseason trade, added two assists.
Shea Theodore scored for the Golden Knights, who have dropped two straight after winning their first two games. Vegas lost for the first time in Arizona after winning the first four meetings at Gila River Arena.
Arizona rookie Barrett Hayton, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft, assisted on Schmaltz’s goal in his NHL debut. The 19-year-old Hayton held off a defender with one arm while muscling a pass to Christian Dvorak on the wing. Dvorak got the primary assist when Schmaltz scored with 39 seconds left in the first period.
“It’s something you dream of for a long time,” Hayton said. “Played a little longer than I would have thought. Overall, I thought it was a good game.”
Garland backhanded the puck off the skate of Vegas defender Nicolas Hague at the 8-minute mark of the first, the first goal for Arizona since Derek Stepan’s second-period tally in the season opener at Anaheim on Oct. 3.
“We just want to play the same way we always do no matter what,” Garland said. “But if they’re going in, that makes us a dangerous hockey team.”
Theodore answered for the Golden Knights with 5 seconds left in the first. His shot eluded Kuemper, who had to deal with Vegas forward Max Pacioretty in his line of sight as the shot zipped toward the net.
The Coyotes challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal was upheld.
Out of a penalty kill, Garland scored on a solo rush up the ice, beating goalie Malcolm Subban with a backhand for a 3-1 lead. Subban, who finished with 12 saves, was replaced in net by Marc-Andre Fleury to start the second period.
“We weren’t even close to good enough tonight,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “We lost the game in the first period. We have to be better.”
Hjalmarsson scored off a faceoff at 18:28 of the second, his long slap shot getting past Fleury for his first goal with the Coyotes. The defenseman didn’t score last season, his second with Arizona.
Fleury made 13 saves, but the Golden Knights went 0 for 4 on power plays.
Arizona has allowed just four goals on the season, second-fewest in the NHL.
“Nobody was panicking after two games and we liked the way we played and the guys worked hard in practice,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said.
NOTES: Coyotes forward Lawson Crouse missed the game with an upper body injury. D Kyle Capobianco, yet to make his season debut, was also scratched. … G Antti Raanta, who hasn’t played in a game since last Nov. 27 because of a long-term lower body injury, is expected to make his season debut for Arizona on Saturday at Colorado. … Phil Kessel played in his 777th consecutive game, moving into seventh place on the NHL list. … D Jimmy Schuldt and C Nicolas Roy were scratched for the Golden Knights and have yet to play in a game this season.
Vegas hosts the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Arizona plays at Colorado on Saturday.