By Louie Korac | NHL.com Correspondent
ST. LOUIS -- The Pacific Division title is there for the taking, and the Coyotes are eager to grab it.
Goals by Radim Vrbata and Shane Doan 2:10 apart in the second period broke open a tie game, and Phoenix moved within a victory of winning the division title by beating the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, at Scottrade Center on Friday night.
The Coyotes (41-27-13) jumped a point in front of idle Los Angeles and San Jose, and a win on Saturday in Minnesota would guarantee Phoenix its first division title since the franchise entered the NHL as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979.
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"It's an honor and a privilege to be in the playoffs but our goal is to win the division, which we've never done here in Phoenix," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "It's something that we have to embrace and get those two points."
Added Head Coach Dave Tippett: "It's a division title but more importantly, it's home ice in the playoffs. We've been talking about this for a long time - that we want to build to be a playoff team. We put ourselves in a position to do that."
The Coyotes also avoided being swept in the season series against St. Louis (48-22-11), winning for the first time in four tries.
Mikkel Boedker had a goal and an assist, Yandle scored and Antoine Vermette added a pair of assists for the Coyotes. Mike Smith made 31 saves for the win despite having his shutout streak snapped at 234:25. He has allowed just one goal in his last 13 periods.
The Blues, who are winless in four straight games (0-2-2) for the first time all season, saw their hopes of winning the Presidents' Trophy evaporate with the loss. They still remain in the hunt for first place in the Western Conference but now need a win at Dallas on Saturday night along with a Vancouver loss in regulation to Edmonton to get it.
"There's still a chance, there's still something to play for," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We've got a lot of fighters on this team and we're going to keep doing what we do."
The Blues, who ended their home slate with a 30-6-5 mark, the most wins in franchise history, are talking about how to get their game back with the playoffs just five days away.
Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues, and Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots. St. Louis hurt itself by going 0-for-7 on the power play.
"The PK was good tonight," Doan said. "It's really the driving force around the league, shutting down the other teams power play makes you that much better. It was good tonight for us."
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock was brisk and to the point during his post-game press conference. He made one statement and walked off, noticeably displeased. The Blues are 3-4-4 in their last 11 games.
"This is what happens when you play with skill ahead of work," Hitchcock said. "This is what happens when you don't want to put your work boots on and the other team doesn't want to have anything to do with it. They pushed us out of the game competitively-wise. They made us play and act as individuals. They started with the puck off of faceoffs. They defended well, they blocked shots, they did all the things that we do as a team, and they did them very well.
Phoenix started the scoring when Yandle's bullet from the top of the left circle, a shot Elliott never saw thanks to a screen by Raffi Torres, hit the top upper right corner just 2:13 into the game to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead. Yandle fired home his 11th of the season after getting the puck from behind the net from Daymond Langkow.
|Photo by Getty Images.
After the Blues killed off the third Phoenix power play of the period, T.J. Oshie came out of the box and St. Louis wound up with a four-on-one rush that ended with Berglund hammering home a loose puck from the crease with 5:34 left in the period to tie the score. It also ended Smith's shutout streak as well as his streak of 161 consecutive saves. Oshie took two shots that Smith stopped but the puck lay in the crease and Berglund rifled it in with Smith out of position.
But the Coyotes scored off a pair of second-period rushes after quick transitions. Vrbata whistled a shot past Elliott from the high slot 5:44 into the second after taking a Ray Whitney pass (see KEY MOMENT below), and Doan tucked a shot into the net after taking Vermette's feed at 7:54 for a 3-1 lead.
Later in the period, Smith was knocked down by an inadvertent knee to the head by teammate Rostislav Klesla after getting tangled up with Oshie but remained in the game.
The Blues wasted a huge chance to get back in the game when they had 1:48 of a two-man advantage late in the second period and came away with nothing.
Boedker gave Phoenix a comfortable lead when he skated across the ice past Kevin Shattenkirk, then fired a wrister past Elliott 10:19 into the third period. it's the first time Elliott allowed four goals in a game since Feb. 22 in a 4-2 loss to Boston.
"I thought tonight we're right where we want to be at finding our identity," Yandle said. "Tonight was big. ... Tonight we did a good job and everybody contributed. It was a fun game to be a part of."
► EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of phoenixcoyotes.com edited this story and compiled this recap.
With the score tied 1-1, Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata
scored his team-leading 34th goal of the season - and his 12th game-winning goal - with a wrist shot from the high slot at 5:44 of the second period.
Winger Ray Whitney
set up the goal with a nice drop pass to Vrbata, who has scored four goals in the past four games.
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to see the KEY MOMENT
• Center Boyd Gordon
, who owns the second-best road faceoff percentage in the NHL at 57 percent, won 13 of 18 (72 percent) draws in this game.
• Goalie Mike Smith
upped his record to 19-5-2 in games played after at least two days off.
• The Coyotes, who play at Minnesota on Saturday, are 5-6-1 in the second game of back-to-back games this season.
• Forward Radim Vrbata
scored his 34th goal to become the team's first 34-goal scorer since Jeremy Roenick scored 34 in 1999-2000.
• Defenseman Adrian Aucoin
did not play because of a minor injury. He is considered day-to-day.
• The Coyotes scratched Scott Arnold
, Adrian Aucoin
, Paul Bissonnette
, Kyle Chipchura
, David Schlemko
and Chris Summers
• The Coyotes' next game is Saturday vs. the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time). The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona Plus and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).