GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky promised a new era of hockey in the desert.
In the offseason, the Coyotes signed Don Maloney as their new general manager, added rookies with spirit and verve, and built a group of defensemen based on experience.
The wave of new players to step into the Phoenix lineup paid dividends when rookie Daniel Winnik's first NHL goal stood as the game-winner in the Coyotes' 3-2 victory against the St. Louis Blues in the teams' season opener on Thursday night.
Winnik converted a centering pass from Martin Hanzal at 7:30 of the third period to extend the Coyotes' lead to 3-0, only 12 seconds after Mike York scored Phoenix's second goal.
"We're a young team, and it was exciting for the players for and the fans," Gretzky said. "We made some mistakes in the last 10 minutes, and there's going to be times when things are going to happen. All in all, our effort is always going to be there."
Keith Tkachuk and Brad Boyes scored late in the third to pull the Blues to 3-2, but the Coyotes hung on.
Phoenix overcame a high-sticking penalty against defenseman Ed Jovanovski with 1:06 remaining, and fought off the Blues' 6-on-4 advantage after St. Louis pulled goalie Manny Legace for an extra skater.
Allowing the Coyotes to build a 3-0 lead in the final period was not the kind of start to a new season the Blues hoped.
"They were moving and we were not," said Tkachuk, who scored his 474th career goal. "They came to play and we didn't execute. We sat around and they took advantage."
Keith Ballard also scored for Phoenix and Mikael Tellqvist stopped 22 shots. Legace finished with 31 saves for the Blues.
Tkachuk got the Blues on the board 28 seconds after Winnik's goal, completing a spree where the teams scored three goals in 40 seconds.
The Coyotes created a 3-0, third period lead when he scored twice within 12 seconds. Mike York converted a centering pass from Stephen Reinprecht into his first of the season at 7:18 of the third. Then, Winnik took Hanzal's centering pass and redirected the puck behind Legace for the game winner.
"We need all the young playing every night," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "These guys, like Peter Mueller, Hanzal, Winnik, will get minutes on the power play and chances in every situation."
Legace stopped quality scoring opportunities from Doan in the first period, and Mike Zigomanis and York in the second. Plus, the Coyotes' Peter Mueller hit the left post during a second-period power play.
Paul Kariya nearly scored twice for St. Louis in the second period, but was stopped in close by Tellqvist both times. Tellqvist also stopped Kariya on a third-period breakaway with the Coyotes up 1-0.
"Obviously, that was a big one," Tellqvist said. "They scored two quick goals, so yeah, it was big at the time."
Ballard gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead when he converted his own rebound with a backhander from his knees at 12:15 of the second period.
Blues alternative captain Doug Weight said his team did not have that sense of urgency, but saw that intangible clearly in the Coyotes' approach.
"It's the same old hat for us," said Weight, entering his 17th NHL season. "We need to play for an entire 60 minutes, and we did not do that (Thursday night)."
Phoenix opened the season without two regulars. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek broke his left hand in practice on Wednesday and is out four to six weeks. His streak of 178 consecutive games played ended. Left wing Josh Gratton, out with a broken figure sustained during the Coyotes' first preseason game, is listed day-to-day. ... Blues defenseman Erik Johnson, the first overall pick in the 2006 draft, made his NHL debut. He was paired with Barret Jackman and picked up his first NHL point when he assisted on Tkachuk's goal. Johnson played 17 minutes, 59 seconds, and his coach Andy Murray said, "Overall, he has to improve on some things. He also did some good things."