The Phoenix Coyotes opened up a 3-1 lead in the first period, survived a major comeback attempt by the Canadiens in the second and then scored two quick goals in the third to beat the Canadiens 5-2 Thursday night in Phoenix. It was the first Phoenix win over the Canadiens in ten games and thirteen gamesRadim Vrbata scored twice for the Coyotes. S Lauri Korpikoski, Olivier Ekman-Larsson and Shane Doan scored the others. For the Canadiens it was Andrei Markov and Alex Galchenyuk. Shots on goal were 26-23 for the Canadiens. The three stars were Vrbata, Larsson and Markov.
Adding It Up –
No Legs – Second road game in 24 hours and third in four days in a western time zone and, in the first period, it showed. It looked like the entire second period of the game in Anaheim the night before when the opponent poured 19 shots on the Canadiens goal. In this game the shots were 15-7 and it gave a true picture of the way the Habs were pushed around.
Doing His Best – Peter Budaj was on his own. The scoring chances were 7-3 in the first period. The first shot went in off Douglas Murray. He had to be brilliant on five chances before Korpikoski broke the 1-1 tie on a power play deflection at 15:04. With just a couple of seconds left Ekman-Larsson got a wide open look in the slot a buried the slapper. 3-1 end of one. Odds of a comeback from that against a Dave Tippett coached team, between slim and nil.
The College Try – Give them credit, the Canadiens reached back in the second period and found something. Alex Galchenyuk deflected Subban’s shot past Mike Smith on a 5-on-3 power play but that was the extent. The Canadiens outshot the Coyotes 11-1, but I counted only three real scoring chances.
Out of Gas – The first minute of the third period Brendan Gallagher beat the defense to test Smith and that was the gasp, almost literally. Eleven minutes into the period the Canadiens had produced four shots and just the one scoring chance. Then Jarred Tinordi gave the puck away to Kyle Chipchura at centre ice and Vrbata scored on the 2-on-1. 1:45 later, after a penalty to newcomer Mike Weaver Shane Doan deflected a shot past Budaj and we could all go to bed. At least some of us.
The Debut – Thomas Vanek played with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta in his first game with the Canadiens. How long that lasts will be up to the coaching staff. Vanek was limited to only three and a half minutes in the first period because his linemates were busy killing off those two offensive zone penalties. Vanek wound up with 15:34 and came out of nowhere to take a pass from Plekanec for the best of the three scoring chances the Habs produced in the second period. It was his only shot of the game.
Debut #2 – Mike Weaver‘s first game on the Canadiens defense was mostly uneventful with the exception of the slashing penalty he took in the third period that led to the fifth goal. He was on the ice in his first Canadiens shift, but had nothing to do with the opening of the game which deflected off his defense partner Douglas Murray. One thing seems clear, he knows how to move the puck.
Also Worth Mentioning – …..It was one of those ‘one and done’ offensive performances. Max Pacioretty led the Canadiens with five shots, but didn’t scare anybody. ….Are we getting to the point where we have to consider Alex Galchenyuk at centre ice. Maybe it’s his 19 year old legs, but he played with energy throughout the game. And of course scored the Canadiens second goal. …..With Josh Gorges out with his broken hand, Jarred Tinordi moved up to play with P.K. Subban. Tinordi is beginning to look a bit overwhelmed. His giveaway that led to the clinching goal was the result of panic under forechecking pressure in the neutral zone. Tinordi is going to be very good. But he isn’t there yet.
Moving On – When this road trip began, consensus was a satisfactory result would be two wins out of the four games. The Canadiens never seem to do things the easy way and now they’re faced with formidable task of beating the Sharks in San Jose if they want to reach gain a split. They beat the league’s best team Wenesday night, so anything is possible it seems. We might even see Carey Price for the first time since the Olympics. The good news – both Tampa Bay and Detroit lost Thursday night as well, so the Canadiens are still second in the Atlantic Division.