Coyotes steal Lightning’s thunder with 7-3 victory, Garland, Keller score two goals each, Kuemper assigned to Tucson

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Arizona wins big over #2 Tampa Bay 7-3

Ole Olafson, Reporter

It just got a whole lot harder to score against the Tucson Roadrunners.

It was announced today that goaltender Darcy Kuemper would be assigned to the Coyotes, American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, for conditioning purposes.  This should be great news for Coyotes fans, as it likely portends a return to action for the team’s world-class, starting goalie.

Kuemper was second in goals against average (GAA) and had the third best save percentage (SV%) in the National Hockey League (NHL), at the time of his injury Dec. 19.  It’s unknown how long Kuemper will remain a Roadrunner.

Meanwhile, back at Gila River Arena, game #65 brought Eastern Conference powerhouse, the second best team in the NHL, Tampa Bay Lightning (40-16-5) to town, fresh off a loss in Las Vegas.

Since Feb. 8, Arizona had gone 3-5, playing six road games and two games at home.  They come into tonight’s game on a two game skid, following a scoreless loss at St. Louis on Thursday that put them outside the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

Tampa Bay flexed their scoring muscles 3:53 into the first period when Anthony Cirelli shoveled in a centering pass, off the end boards, from Alex Killorn.

With 2:24 left in the period, the Coyotes struck back.  Winger, Conor Garland scored his 21st goal of the season when he sniped it past Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

70 seconds later, Clayton Keller blasted it from the top of the circle and rung it in off the far post for a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.

Arizona kept up the intensity at the start of the second period.

Carl Soderberg got credit for a power-play goal when the puck bounced off the blade of Lightning, center, Yanni Gourde’s stick and grazed Soderberg on its way into the net.

Just less than three minutes later, Gourde seemingly made up for his blunder by assisting Andrej Palat, who swatted a rebound past Raanta to get Tampa Bay back to within one goal.

Moments later, Brayden Point tied the game with a goal from beside the net, courtesy of a well-placed pass from Lightning, captain Steven Stamkos.

Veteran, center, Brad Richardson responded for Arizona less than a minute later, when he fired his fifth goal of the season past Vasilevskiy off a pass from Taylor Hall, on his knees, behind the net.

Just over halfway through the final period, Keller netted his second goal of the night when he broke free from Victor Hedman and flicked it over Vasilevskiy’s right shoulder.

Keeping up with Keller, Garland scored his second goal of the game at 14:28 in the third.  Arizona was on the power play and after getting roughly, crosschecked to the ice in front of the goal, the puck wound up coming to him and he was able to swipe it into the net with his stick.

Garland kept the momentum going with an unselfish pass to Derek Stepan, who shot it past Vasilevskiy with less than two minutes remaining.

The win put Arizona back in the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference.  They’ll host Florida on Tuesday night.