Tonight was a tale of two games. The first game was a picture perfect example of winning road hockey and illustrated why the Western Conference has been the juggernaut of the league this year. The second game was a telling illustration of what happens when injuries and a lack of depth catch up to you. Unfortunately, the second game had a much larger role in determining the outcome than the first one did.
The opening twenty minutes started about as bad as they could have for Phoenix. The Canadiens came out and dominated the opening minutes of play, controlling the puck and getting two odd man rushes on Mike Smith before the Coyotes could even muster a shot.
It all changed when former Coyote Daniel Briere took an offensive zone penalty for taking down Connor Murphy at the 3:07 mark of the period.
The Coyotes didn't score on the power play, but they controlled the puck and gave themselves a chance to breathe and get into the flow of the contest. A few minutes after the unsuccessful advantage, the Coyotes broke through. Kyle Chipchura entered the zone and dropped a pass for Mikkel Boedker. Boedker took a shot and drove the net on the rebound. In doing so, Brian Gionta went with him and the loose puck caromed in the net off of Gionta's skate, giving the Yotes a 1-0 lead.
The Coyotes would continue to pressure the Habs the rest of the period, but Carey Price kept them from extending the lead further. After the first period, the Coyotes led 1-0 and held a 15-3 advantage in shots on goal. That is where the good news ended for Phoenix.
Just as a Canadiens penalty in the first changed the momentum of that period, another one would do the same in the second but in the other direction. Brandon Prust was whistled for roughing for a hit on Connor Murphy and earned an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct after the whistle. The four-minute power play for the Coyotes would produce nothing and turned the flow of play back in favor of the Canadiens.
Montreal would almost tie the game on a power play chance of their own later in the second, but Max Pacioretty's one-timer rang off the right post behind Mike Smith. Smith would also make a couple of big saves in the final minutes of the second, including a highlight reel glove save on an Alex Galchenyuk one timer with 37 seconds left in the period.
The Canadiens would continue to control the flow of play and evened the game after a tough holding call on David Moss. The puck would enter the Coyotes zone with OEL having a chance to clear it, but he was tied up along the boards. The puck would make it's way across the ice to a wide open Andre Markov who would rifle a slap shot past Murphy and through Smith's pads for his third goal of the season at 2:26 of the third.
The Canadiens would increase the pressure, and unlike Phoenix earlier in the game, they added to their scoring total because of it.
After a delay of game call on Ekman-Larsson, the Canadiens power play got some help from the Phoenix defense. With less than 30 seconds left in the kill, Pacioretty had the puck in the low left corner and fired a centering pass toward Brendan Gallagher in front. The pass never got there as it hit Michael Stone's leg and ricocheted past a stunned Smith for a 2-1 Montreal lead.
The Coyotes would get chances to tie the game but couldn't capitalize, including a three-on-one break in the final minute that was broken up by a diving Josh Gorges. Pacioretty would cap off a three point night when he two hopped an empty netter with three seconds left to give the Canadiens a 3-1 victory.
The Coyotes had zero offensive pressure in the final two periods and were manhandled my Montreal in the third. Injuries, illness and general ineffectiveness are culprits, but Phoenix had better find a way to play complete games soon or this trip may leave them in worse shape than they started in.
- Even with their 15-3 first period shot advantage, the Coyotes ended the game being outshot 27-28 due to their unacceptable second and third period performance.
- The Coyotes were zero for four on the power play. They allowed the Canadiens to convert two of their four chances however.
- The first Canadiens goal ended a streak of 12 straight successful kills by the Coyotes penalty kill.
- A big reason for the Coyotes struggle on the kill was the absence of Zbynek Michalek, who left the game early in the first period after playing one shift.
- Rob Klinkhammer had a wide open net to score on shortly after the Canadiens game winning goal but hit the post.
- Connor Murphy had an assist on the only Coyotes goal, extending his points streak to three games.
- The Coyotes had tremendous success in the faceoff circles, winning 34 of 56 draws for 61%. A big reason for Montreal's third period comeback was their improved work in the circle as the Canadiens won 13 of 22 draws in that frame.
- Martin Hanzal won 13 of 16 faceoffs (81%) and Mike Ribeiro won 6 of 8 (75%).
- Oliver Ekman-Larrson led the Coyotes with five shots on goal. Keith Yandle played 27:46 to lead all players in ice time.
- The Coyotes have not won a game in Montreal since October 28, 1996. To give you some idea of how long ago that was, it's been longer since we won in Montreal than the original Jets were an NHL franchise (17 years vs. 16 years). Yikes.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1. Max Pacioretty: Pacioretty had the two goals and an assist on the first Montreal tally. He also led all players in shots with six and played 20:47.
2. Carey Price: Price stopped 26 of 27 shots and kept the Canadiens in the game during their moribund opening period.
3. Brendan Gallagher: He didn't score any points, but his presence in front of the net on the power play directly led to the two critical Montreal goals.
Comment of the Night
The Coyotes uninspired play from the second period on led to a long discussion in the gamethread about the viability of trading a defensemen for forward help and the general state of the young Phoenix blueline. Check out the thread here. The highlight of the exchange may have been this (in regards to David Rundblad):
by Jaime Eisner on Dec 17, 2013 | 6:54 PM
Fun fact: He has only played 3+ games in a row four times in his Coyotes career, has never reached 5 in a row.
The Coyotes continue their road trip through Eastern Canada on Thursday night with a stop in Toronto to challenge the Maple Leafs. The game starts at 5:00 pm Arizona time and will be televised on FSAZ and TSN. The radio home of the game will be on KMVP 860 AM.