VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Clayton Keller is playing more like a seasoned veteran than a wide-eyed rookie.
He’s also a big reason for the Arizona Coyotes’ late-season surge.
Keller scored in the first period and assisted on Derek Stepan’s winning goal with 58 seconds left in the third, leading the Coyotes to a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
“Last 12 games, he’s got a lot of juice,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “You can tell there’s no hitting the wall. I really feel this last month he’s going to finish strong.”
Keller is fourth in the rookie scoring race with 48 points, and has four goals and eight assists since Feb. 8.
“He had some energy tonight,” Tocchet said. “He had the puck a lot. One thing is he is not afraid to go to the net and he showed that getting that goal for us and, obviously, making that play to Step.”
Backup Darcy Kuemper made 16 saves in place of starter Antti Raanta, who missed the game due to injury. The victory improved Arizona to 8-2-1 in its last 11 games.
“That’s one of the best games I’ve seen any team play this year,” Kuemper said. “They were incredible start to finish, we had the puck for almost the entire game down in their zone and I was just hoping my feet wouldn’t go to sleep.”
Jussi Jokinen scored for the Canucks, who have lost four of their past five games and will likely be without star rookie Brock Boeser for the rest of the regular season after he injured his back against the New York Islanders on Monday night.
“With Brock or without Brock, this game was far from good enough,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “It just wasn’t good enough from each and every guy.”
Jacob Markstrom stopped 32 shots for Vancouver.
“It’s not our best game, for sure,” Markstrom said. “They worked harder than us. They wanted it more than we did. And that’s pretty simple.”
Tyler Motte, alone at the side of the net, missed a chance to put Vancouver ahead early in the third period as Nick Cousins deflected his shot to keep it 1-1. Motte got another chance from the slot, but Kuemper made the save.
The Coyotes dominated the shot clock and finally solved Markstrom with less than a minute to play. Keller found Stepan in the slot and he buried it past Markstrom to avoid overtime.
Vancouver appeared to have scored first in the opening period on a short-handed chance during an Arizona 5-on-3. With Daniel Sedin and Darren Archibald in the penalty box, Brandon Sutter sprung loose on a breakaway and appeared to go top corner on Kuemper. But video review revealed the puck had hit the crossbar.
Just as Sedin’s penalty expired, Markstrom made an incredible glove save on Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s shot, but the goalie couldn’t control the puck. Keller picked it out from under defenseman Alex Edler to score at 18:20.
“Pretty sure it went into my glove and I was pretty happy with myself,” Markstrom said of his initial reaction. “But then I looked in the glove and there was nothing there. The puck was in the back of the net.”
On a delayed Arizona penalty and Markstrom pulled for an extra attacker for almost a full minute, Jokinen scored his first for Vancouver with a one-timer off a corner feed from Brendan Leipsic that tied it at 1 after the first period.
Arizona had the majority of chances in an uneventful second period, with the Canucks mustering only four shots on goal to the Coyotes’ nine. Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen missed on a wide-open net. At the other end, Coyotes veteran Brad Richardson hit the post on a partial breakaway.
NOTES: Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski missed the game due to his wife expecting their second child.
Coyotes: at Colorado on Saturday.
Canucks: vs. Minnesota on Friday night.