You would expect the Montreal Canadiens to put up a fight against the Arizona Coyotes with their starting goaltender in net, but for the second time this season, the Coyotes beat the Canadiens, this time taking the game 5-2 at the Gila River Arena on Thursday night.
The Coyotes (16-32-10) extended their winning streak to three after their victory. The game started off fairly back and forth, with both teams exchanging chances. Habs forward Nikita Scherbak was stoned right in front of Arizona goaltender Antti Raanta but couldn’t score.
Montreal captain Max Pacioretty, subject of many trade rumors, did not have a strong game. He took two minors, both of which the Coyotes scored on, and was -2 with one assist by the end of the night. When serving his first minor, it was the Arizona rookie phenom Clayton Keller who scored his team-leading 17th of the season with a slap shot from the point past Price. He finished the evening with four points (one goal, three assists) for his first career four point night.
Later in the period, Price also robbed Christian Fischer with a big glove save in front.
The second period saw the Canadiens (22-28-7) coming out flat and the Coyotes took full advantage. Sophomore Brendan Perlini scored his 13th of the season just 59 seconds in, and 19 seconds later, he was sprung alone on a stretch pass by captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson for his 14th. His goals (14) and points (21) match his exact season total from last year, but in seven less games.
Not wanting to find themselves shut out again, Montreal came out with immense pressure in the third period, and tried everything to solve Raanta. At the 5:46 mark of the period, Habs leading goal scorer Brendan Gallagher notched his 21st of the season on a powerplay marker at the side of the net, his office to reduce the lead to two.
Just 1:52 later relentless pressure saw the Habs try more, and Tomas Plekanec found an open Daniel Carr who put the puck upstairs and cutting his team’s deficit to just one. It was Carr’s first game since February 1, and his first goal since December 19 in a game against the Vancouver Canucks.
However after getting the momentum, it was short lived as the indiscipline of Pacioretty returned when he took his second minor and the Coyotes capitalized again when Keller found an open Tobias Rieder at the side of the net and he made no mistake and helped restore Arizona’s two goal lead.
With less than four minutes left in the game, Rieder found forward Josh Archibald who took a backhand that fooled Price and knocked off his right shoulder and went in the back of the net.
The Canadiens have now dropped four in a row, and the first two on this road trip, with their next game a huge test. They’ll be travelling to T-Mobile Arena for a date with the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights, who are currently sitting second in the league in their inaugural season. They are also a mind blowing 21-4-2 in Sin City.
The Canadiens did previously beat the Golden Knights when they hosted them back in November, but this season has seen a lot of strange events happen since then.