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Canadiens vs. Coyotes Ten Takeaways: The losing streak is over

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Max Pacioretty earns four points as the Habs beat the Coyotes 5-4 in overtime.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

1. A must win against the Coyotes is still a must win.

Prolonged losing streaks give rise to questions and doubts that start to surround a team like a dark cloud. The cloud around the Habs had gotten so grim before yesterday’s game, it seemed like one more loss would set off a thunder storm. While the Coyotes are at the bottom of the league, there was still hockey to play last night, and the Canadiens definitely reminded us how how hard it is to win a hockey game no matter who the opponent is.

2. The fourth line was a source of energy.

Michael McCarron and Daniel Carr were brought in to replace two veterans in David Desharnais and Brian Flynn. They both came out flying. Every time McCarron was on the ice I heard a crunch of him putting someone into the boards. Both players got a boost of confidence early on, assisting on Andrei Markov’s first-period blast that put the Habs up 2-0. They, along with Torrey Mitchell, did everything a good fourth line should.

3. Andrew Shaw takes bad penalties.

Shaw’s second period penalty didn’t result in a powerplay goal for the Coyotes, but it was the first in a series of penalties that completely shifted the balance of the game. While Paul Byron and Phillip Danault share some of the blame for the shift in momentum that occurred in the second period, the Shaw penalty sent a shock through the team, and before they could recover the Habs went from being up 2-0 to being down 3-2.

4. And the Habs can’t play shorthanded, because their penalty kill is terrible.

There are only seven more teams in the NHL who have a worse penalty kill than the Montreal Canadiens. One way to deal with a bad system is to not take penalties. The Canadiens, however, are the second most penalized team in the league, something they’ve had to deal with 193 times this season. Three penalties in a row in the second period almost led to their demise last night. Either the Canadiens need to put more emphasis on being disciplined, or they need to fix their penalty kill immediately. Ideally, they’d do both.

5. The game the Canadiens play with themselves.

The Canadiens enter every game with a definite plan. You can’t blame Michel Therrien for not being prepared, and for not having his players prepared to execute a plan for every game. But it seems like this often leads to the Canadiens playing more to execute a plan than playing their opponents. It seems they are more mindful about what the plan is - what they’re supposed to do - than those really subtle things that are happening in the moment that require a reaction, and that’s where they end up playing a game with themselves and become vulnerable to the opposition, and how they can go from dominating a game to a complete collapse in minutes.

6. Max Pacioretty is a good captain.

In general, the Canadiens needed someone to step up for them tonight, but there were specific moments where it needed to happen.

For example, it was important for the Habs to get a good start, so it mattered that someone do something to make sure that happened. Max Pacioretty was the one to do that, scoring his 200th career goal to open the scoring for his team 57 seconds into the game. At the start of the third, the Canadiens needed someone to step up and get the game-tying goal. Max Pacioretty again. Overtime. Max Pacioretty drives the net, drops to Alex Galchenyuk who shoots. The Canadiens win.

7. Top grades for the first and fourth lines; C minus for the second and third lines.

The first and fourth lines pushed the momentum in the Habs’ favour, while the second and third were stale and often broke the chain of positive momentum the first and fourth lines were creating. The Habs are trying to build themselves into a machine that rolls with high electricity, grit and speed throughout their entire lineup. Something’s missing right now. It could be a couple of players. It could be one. Brendan Gallagher’s return soon should provide more answers.

8. Carey Price is hibernating until the playoffs.

There’s no other explanation for what happened last night. And really, it’s kind of smart. He figures the Habs will get into the playoffs, and he can do the bare minimum he’s capable of as a goaltender (which is usually pretty good), and then he’ll wake up nice and fresh for April. It’s a good plan. I’m on board. That must be it...right?

Jokes aside, that was legitimately a bad performance from Price, there’s no doubt about it. Fortunately, as rare as it was, the Canadiens responded by scoring five goals and winning it for their goalie.

9. The losing streak is over.

The Canadiens won.

In overtime.

Against the Coyotes.

It’s a win. A must win. With back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, it’s a good thing the Canadiens put an end to this losing skid now. This was actually a win they can build on. Hell, it was a win they desperately needed.

10. Michel Therrien is still coach.

If the Canadiens had lost the game versus the Coyotes the ‘fire Therrien’ movement would be in full force. Although an overtime win against one of the worst teams in the NHL probably didn’t pour much cold water on the idea that the coach has brought the Habs as far as he’s capable of bringing them.