GLENDALE, ARIZ.—Darcy Kuemper’s play in goal was the driving force in the Arizona Coyotes’ run toward a playoff berth that came up just short late last season.
His actions Saturday only further endeared the veteran to his teammates.
Kuemper stopped 37 shots for his second shutout of the season and slammed an opponent to the ice during a brawl in the second period, and the Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 3-0 Saturday.
“It happens. A little bit of fun, but then we got back to work,” Kuemper said. “That’s a big part of our success, is how tight we are as a group. We want to have each other’s back out there.”
After Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau cross-checked Arizona’s Jason Demers late in the second period while Demers was down on the ice, Kuemper put the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk in a headlock and flipped him off his skates. Tkachuk came up swinging and landed a few blows on Kuemper in a dustup that also included Calgary goaltender David Rittich barrelling in from the other side of the rink.
The crowd chanted Kuemper’s name as he returned to the net. Three Flames and two Coyotes combined for 14 penalty minutes. Vinnie Hinostroza served Kuemper’s four-minute roughing penalty, and Rasmus Andersson sat for two minutes on Rittich’s behalf.
“It’s nice having my security guard back there, Darcy,” Demers said. “We’ve been building towards something the last couple of years, and this season feels different for us.”
Demers said he thought the Flames felt he went down too easy on a hit that preceded the fracas.
“Just trying to give it to him a bit, we didn’t like that too much,” Tkachuk said. “Whenever something happens when Johnny’s involved, you’ve got to stick up for him.”
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