LAS VEGAS — Nick Cousins said he "couldn't put a finger on" why teams are playing better in Las Vegas this season.
Nor does he care.
Cousins scored his first game-winning goal of the season and goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 41 saves to lead the Arizona Coyotes to a 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
The Coyotes snapped an 0-3-1 slide on the road, while handing Vegas its fourth consecutive home loss, the second time in franchise history it's lost four straight at T-Mobile Arena.
"I think guys maybe took 'em a little bit lightly since they were coming with the expansion," Cousins said. "Obviously us, we're not gonna take 'em lightly any time. And I think that might be it. We've played 'em well here."
Arizona, which improved to 2-1-1 in Las Vegas, was the recipient of a wild bounce after Cousins' initial shot was deflected wide. Vinnie Hinostroza collected the puck and fired it in front, where Cousins was there for a one-timer that slipped past Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Kuemper, who recently earned a point in nine straight starts, improved to 8-2-3 since the calendar flip to 2019. He's made a league sixth-best 378 saves since Jan. 1.
"He was solid tonight," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. "Kemps is seeing the puck. I thought he made a good save in the third, a glove save, that was a rocket going short side, he made that glove save. That was a big one for us."
Jordan Oesterle, Alex Galchenyuk, Josh Archibald and Richard Panik also scored for Arizona.
Brandon Pirri and Nate Schmidt scored for Vegas, which is now 16-8-3 at home and has lost six of eight. Fleury, who made his league-leading 50th start of the season, made 21 saves.
It marked the fifth time in eight games Vegas' normally high-powered offence was limited to two or fewer goals.
Alex Tuch, who leads Vegas with 40 points, is now mired in a six-game drought without a point or an assist, while first-line forwards William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault had their three-game point streaks come to halt.
"We keep taking penalties, it hurts you," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. "We kill both of them, but we lost momentum. Your top players are killing penalties then you try and get back. It was a 2-2 game and all of a sudden, we try and get cute again and start making drop passes and passes through the slot, and turnover and they go the other way on odd-man rushes. ... In my opinion we gave them three goals from our mistakes, not from what they deserve."
Meanwhile, the Coyotes, who entered the game leading the league with an 85.1 penalty kill percentage, kept Vegas silent on its lone power-play opportunity.
After Oesterle buried a wrist shot to break a scoreless tie during a power play midway through the second period, Galchenyuk made it 2-0 when he took a pass from Nick Cousins and broke free down the left side on a breakaway, deked Fleury to his left and slipped the puck into the net.
Pirri ended his six-game drought 29 seconds later when he sniped Kuemper short side to cut Arizona's lead in half. Shortly after Reilly Smith had a chance to tie the game for Vegas with a penalty shot, but clanked it off the post, Schmidt found the back of the net with 30 seconds left in the second to make it 2-2 for his 100th career point.
Archibald and Panik scored late to ice the game for Arizona, which inched closer in the Western Conference wild-card race. The Coyotes are four points behind the second wild-card spot, currently held by Minnesota, which has 59 points. Sandwiched between is Vancouver with 57.
Tocchet agreed with Cousins in that teams are no longer surprised by Vegas' talent, and are arriving a bit more poised and prepared to play hockey, rather than being distracted by what the city has to offer the night before games.
"I think teams are coming in here a little more serious, I just feel like when we come in here, the job's to win a hockey game," Tocchet said. "It's no different than going to any other city. You go to dinner and whatever your guys do. Vegas, I think people are being a little more serious before the game."
NOTES: The Coyotes were on their annual "Dads Trip." ... Arizona's Kevin Connauton played in his 300th career game. ... Cousins' 17 assists are a career high. ... Stepan has registered three goals and four assists in eight career games against the Golden Knights. ... Vegas' Deryk Engelland played in his 599th career game. ... Vegas' Paul Stastny has at least one point in 14 of last 19 games (4 goals, 15 assists).
Arizona: Hosts St. Louis on Thursday.
Vegas: Hosts Toronto on Thursday.
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