The Montreal Canadiens have been ice cold of late, dropping ten of their last fifteen, and took their four game losing skid into the desert to face Arizona.
The Coyotes are one of the worst teams in the league this year, but have won four of their last six.
The first contest between these two teams was early in the year when the Canadiens defeated the Coyotes 5-2 in a game which saw Shea Weber score his first goal with the Habs.
The Canadiens got off to an early start in this one, as Max Pacioretty scored the opening goal less than one minute after puck drop.
Pacioretty started the play by tipping a cleared puck deep into Coyotes’ territory. Alex Radulov tied up his man, leaving the loose puck for Phillip Danault, who spotted the wide open captain for an easy put-away.
The goal was Pacioretty’s 200th regular season goal, tying him with Bobby Rousseau as the 23rd top scorer in franchise history.
Just after the midway point of the first frame, Andrei Markov doubled the Montreal lead with his third goal of the year. Much like the first goal of the game, this one was a full line effort. Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Carr kept the play alive with play behind Mike Smith’s net, setting up a scoring chance for Michael McCarron. The rebound from McCarron’s shot came to Andrei Markov at the blue line, who made no mistake burying his shot.
The first period ended with the Canadiens holding an 8-6 lead in shots and a two-goal advantage.
The second period began slowly for Arizona, who didn’t get a single shot on goal until after the eight minute mark. Paul Byron nearly returned to his scoring ways with a great chance but his shot went off the post and slid out of harm’s way. The quick chance kept Montreal’s pressure up and the Coyotes back on their heels but failed to further the Habs’ lead.
Andrew Shaw took the game’s first penalty, a hooking minor, at the halfway point of the game. The Habs killed the penalty, including a dangerous mid-air shot by Max Domi which was grabbed by the glove of Carey Price. Immediately upon Shaw’s exit from the box, Phillip Danault’s attempt to clear the puck went over the glass, resulting in a delay of game minor. After referee’s confusion nearly pitted Shea Weber in the box instead of Danault, the correct call was made and the Coyotes returned to the PP.
The second attempt was successful, as Christian Dvorak sniped a shot over the shoulder of the Habs’ netminder to cut the lead in half. Domi was once again involved in setting up a nice play, picking up an assist.
Seconds after the Arizona PPG, Paul Byron was then sent to the penalty box for two minutes of his own, for tripping Lawson Crouse. The good news for Montreal was that 15 seconds into the penalty kill, Max Pacioretty was held by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, which was called by the officials, evening out the play at four-on-four for nearly the full two minutes.
During the four-on-four play, the Coyotes created a scramble by Carey Price’s net, with Max Domi smashing away at a loose puck which eventually popped past the goal line. It took a review for the goal to be confirmed, but the end result was a tied game in which the Canadiens had no momentum.
Unfortunately things would get worse for the Habs, who despite getting only 15 seconds of power play time at the end of the four-on-four, found a way to allow a shorthanded goal by Alex Goligoski. Price was caught out of position, watching Tobias Rieder approaching his left shoulder, and he did not see Goligoski streaming into the slot; the Coyotes’ blue-liner surely hasn’t scored many easier goals in his career.
Montreal had been in control of the game, had a two goal lead and boasted a strong shot advantage. In five minutes, everything changed. Shaw’s penalty began a comedic succession of incidents which handed all the momentum, and the game’s lead, to the desert dogs.
Early in the third period, Lawson Crouse got his stick up on Shea Weber, sending Montreal to the power play. Both the Habs’ goal scorers would hook up, Markov’s shot bouncing in front of Max Pacioretty, who fired a quick one past Mike Smith to tie the game up at 3-3.
The goal seemed to spark the Canadiens, who returned to the same form as early in the game, holding the puck in Arizona territory for long stretches at a time. Alex Radulov put the Habs back in the lead with his 14th goal of the season. Max Pacioretty added an assist, his third point of the game.
Coming into the final stretch, all looked well for Montreal, until Carey Price had a another brain fart. He tried to play a puck out in front of his crease and ended up too far forward for a bouncing puck he couldn’t swipe away on time. Price had a weak game on Thursday and it put the Habs in a tough position. The goal was the second of the night for Christian Dvorak.
One game removed from a pasting at the hands of the NHL’s worst team, Montreal failed to defeat the second-worst team in regulation, and the Habs and ‘Yotes headed to overtime.
As is often the case with three-on-three overtime, the action was intense and wide open. Max Pacioretty broke up a play at the red line while the Coyotes were changing up at the bench, allowing him to break into the zone with Alex Galchenyuk, who received a pass from the captain and promptly shot it into the Coyotes net, ending the game as well as the losing streak. It was an exclamation point for Pacioretty, who created the play from nothing, added his fourth point of the night, and set up Galchenyuk, who got himself back on the scoresheet with his first goal since January 20th.
This game marked Shane Doan’s 1,518th career regular season game, all with the same franchise. This is the exact number of games Ray Bourque played with the Boston Bruins before getting traded to the Colorado Avalanche for a magical Stanley Cup run. Could Doan be headed for such a championship run or will he stay in Arizona past the trade deadline?
Max Pacioretty stepped up with a huge game and demonstrated the leadership which earned him the C. With the Canadiens reeling, Pacioretty picked up four points on the team’s five goals, securing the victory. In contrast, this was not the Carey Price that Habs fans are used to seeing, and speculation will be running wild as to the cause of his poor play; it could be as simple as a player seen as invincible having an off day, it could be the symptom of a lingering injury and if you’ve the stomach for them, there are many other wild, improbable theories which could explain Price’s funk.
The bottom line is while it wasn’t easy, Montreal at least scored one victory in their consecutive games against competitors at the bottom of the standings table.
The key now is to keep winning.