Say what you want about the Arizona Coyotes, but they are finding ways to win. The Coyotes never trailed in their 6-3 win over the Montréal Canadiens, but the game was closer than the final score.
Things started well enough, and it didn’t take long for the Coyotes to get on the board, with Barrett Hayton getting his second straight goal just under two minutes into the game.
Karel Vejmelka had been interfered with on the other end of the ice, and on the delayed call, Hayton went hard to the net and fired to give the Coyotes an early 1-0 lead.
Hayts arriving to the party early pic.twitter.com/UcZuM3qVXQ— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 15, 2022
Rather than sitting back with the early lead, the Coyotes continued to apply pressure. Anton Strålman brought the puck down low and went to the front of the net while Riley Nash went to the corner to retrieve. Strålman found a quiet spot in front of Sam Montembeault and tapped in the Riley pass to make it 2-0 Coyotes.
The Coyotes had an early lead, but it was still too early for them to take their foot off the gas.
Alex Galcheynuk took a penalty on the next faceoff, but the Coyotes did a good job killing it and preserving their lead.
Montréal wasn’t completely passive for the opening frame, but the Coyotes were doing a much better job at keeping them from really getting set up. The Canadiens eventually got on the board with a fluke goal that bounced off Matias Maccelli’s body through Vejmelka’s legs, but there was no need to sound the alarm yet.
Arizona got their first power play late in the third when Joel Edmundson was called for cross-checking. The Desert Dogs couldn’t do much with the man-advantage, but five seconds after it expired, Nick Ritchie was posted in front of the net and knocked in an Alex Galchenyuk pass to make it 3-1 Coyotes.
Ritchie has played only nine games with the Desert Dogs, yet he already has five goals and two assists. The change of scenery benefits the forward who had only two goals in 33 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
You would think that a late goal immediately after the power play expired would be enough for the Coyotes but nope. The Canadiens were going to give them plenty of room to play, and the Coyotes were going to make them pay.
Lawson Crouse picked up a loose puck on the Coyotes’ blue line in the final seconds of the opening frame and brought it in with speed. He fired the puck over Montembeault’s glove to make it 4-1 Coyotes.
5 Goals in the last 6 games? not a big deal. pic.twitter.com/fgGe4oR61I— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 15, 2022
Twenty minutes in and the Coyotes had a 4-1 lead, and the only goal they allowed was a fluke. However, the game itself was a bit closer than the scoresheet reflected. Montréal looked terrible and let the Coyotes have too much time and space, especially around the net, but the Coyotes weren’t exactly controlling the game’s pace either.
Montréal started the second switching out their goaltender, putting Cayden Primeau in net for the final 40. They also started with an early penalty, Brendan Gallagher was called for tripping at 4:44, but a Phil Kessel hooking call 20 seconds later would negate the rest of the Yotes’ power play.
Though they couldn’t score, the Canadiens built off the 4-on-4 and abbreviated power play and started to take control of the game. The Coyotes still had a commanding lead, but you could feel the ice begin to tilt.
Despite that, the Coyotes got another power play opportunity late in the game, and they made it count. It didn’t take long either; 30 seconds into the power play, Clayton Keller fired a shot through traffic to score his 26th of the season and give the Coyotes a commanding 5-1 lead.
Seven-game point streak for Keller pic.twitter.com/Rk8PYkEXav— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 16, 2022
The Coyotes had a commanding lead, and the second period was about to expire. If the Coyotes held firm and finished 5-1, it would hopefully demoralize the Canadiens, making for an easy final frame.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Nick Ritchie took exception to a late hit from Chris Wideman and gave him a few too many pushes, causing him to get sent to the box for roughing. Seven seconds after the power play faceoff, Cole Caufield fired the puck from the top of the faceoff circle to cut the Coyotes’ lead by one.
One goal could have been enough to shake the Coyotes, but Caufield wasn’t done yet. He was out for the next faceoff and got the puck around Christian Fischer and fired a shot through the legs of Dysin Mayo to score his second goal in eight seconds.
The second period expired, and the Coyotes still had a two-goal lead, but the game’s tone seemed to change. The Coyotes had been outshot 11-7 in the first period, but it wasn’t too much of an issue thanks to a commanding lead. But Montréal had woken up in the second and outshot the Coyotes 14-7 and cut their lead to two.
Montréal continued to take control as the puck dropped for the third period. Even an early power play couldn’t help the Coyotes, who couldn’t do much to turn things around and gain control.
The Canadiens were winning the momentum battle, but they could not find the back of the net. So it made sense that coach Martin St. Louis decided to go for broke and pull Primeau with over four minutes left in regulation.
Montréal was down by two, but while they were doing an excellent job at getting pucks on net, they couldn’t confine the Coyotes solely to their own zone. Even with the extra attacker, the Canadiens couldn’t keep the Coyotes penned in, and Keller was eventually able to get the puck out and force it to center ice. Nick Schmaltz picked up the pass and hit the empty net, giving the Coyotes the 6-3 lead.
empty net already? bold strategy. pic.twitter.com/H2gYG5uaQ1— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) March 16, 2022
That goal effectively killed any chance at a Montréal comeback. The Coyotes had not played well during the final frame, and if Montréal had managed to score, it could have been a completely different game. But the Coyotes survived the push and will return home 4-1-0 and 6-1-0 in the month of March.
- Lawson Crouse - Goal and assist
- Cole Caufield - 2 goals
- Karel Vejmelka - 36 saves on 39 shots
This Saturday, the Coyotes will return home to host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 2:00 pm Arizona time.