Montreal Canadiens vs. Arizona Coyotes @ Bell Centre – February 1, 2015

montreal canadiens vs arizona coyotesIt was the traditional afternoon games weekend for the Montreal Canadiens that happens for Super Bowl and the Habs won the first game 1-0 in overtime against the Washington Capitals. It was the bleu-blanc-rouge’s second straight 1-0 victory and the second straight in which Carey Price posted the shutout and Max Pacioretty scored the only and winning goal. Due to his delayed travel back from the NHL All-Star game and the fact that he was pummeled with shots in the two games he played Price was granted an afternoon off by head coach Michel Therrien. Not a surprise as back-up goalie Dustin Tokarski has played almost all back ends of back-to-back games this season. Tokarski got one of his rare starts in front of the home crowd. It is not one he is going to store away in his memory, however.

Over the last two games Montreal’s offense had dried up only scoring two goals, but with a goaltender as good as Carey Price they had escaped with four points. Points they probably would not have earned with any other goalie in the nets. The two victories were not earned by the team, rather by Price’s excellence. They learned a hard lesson on Sunday afternoon against the Coyotes.

Though the Canadiens had 27 more points than the Coyotes at the beginning of the game you still have to play a hard game in the NHL to gain a victory over any team. The team from Arizona is not a very good one, but the Habs had to do more than throw their sticks on the ice to win.

For a team that has been having trouble scoring the first 5 minutes of the 1st period was a relief. Montreal went up 2-0 on a mere 4 shots while Alex Galchenyuk scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season. Things did not look good for Coyotes’ goalie and Quebec native, Louis Domingue. This was the 22-year-old’s first start in the NHL after having coming in during the 3rd period of the team’s 7-2 drubbing the night before in Ottawa. After playing in the QMJHL for the Moncton Wildcats and Quebec Remparts Domingue was drafted in the 5th round by the Coyotes. He struggled in the AHL so was reassigned to the ECHL then called back up to the AHL where he has played the last two seasons. A move up the Arizona goaltending depth chart happened recently when the team traded back-up Devan Dubnyk to Minnesota. This is Domingue’s chance to make an impression.

The first Montreal goal was due to some lax defensive zone coverage by the Coyotes. Habs’ defenseman Tom Gilbert took a hit to make a pass at the Arizona blue line getting the puck along the right wing boards to Brendan Gallagher. He laid the puck off for Galchenyuk, who was allowed to skate untouched into the slot. His wrist shot eluded Domingue into the top right hand corner of the net. The second goal was a luckier one for Galchenyuk as David Desharnais’s pass from behind the net bounced in off of him.

You would think that the fact that they scored a few goals early and their opposition had been thoroughly trounced the night before that the rout was on. You would have been wrong. If you looked up flat in the dictionary the picture of the Montreal Canadiens on this afternoon would appear. They just plain stopped skating. Over the course of the following 56 minutes of game time they only mustered 16 shots while allowing the Coyotes to pepper Tokarski with 32 shots. In short they stopped playing while affording a much weaker team a chance to chip away at the lead and eventually emerge with a victory.

The best chance that Montreal had to score over the rest of the game came just past halfway through the 2nd period when Pacioretty broke in on the left side and his quick wrist shot fooled Domingue only to his the post to the goaltender’s left.

montreal canadiens vs arizona coyotes3Before the Coyotes scored late in the 2nd period Tokarski was a little lucky not to have conceded a few goals. He looked shaky to say the least. One shot hit the post, one bounced off of him over the top of the net, a sure goal due to the net was empty was denied by PK Subban’s stick, and every time he ventured out of his crease was an adventure to say the least. It seemed like it was going to be just a matter of time due to his shakiness and the Habs’ flat play that Arizona was going to score.

Yes, two of the three goals they scored were weak. The first could not be blamed on Tokarski. It was a power play goal scored by Lauri Korpikoski while Manny Malholtra sat in the box. Korpikoski was allowed to set up camp in front of Tokarski and deflected a wrist shot by Martin Erat. The last two goals – another by Korpikoski and one by Ekman-Larsson – were awful. Ekman-Larsson’s with only 32 seconds gone in the 3rd period snuck one past Tokarski on the short side via a harmless looking shot from the left boards. The game winning goal by Korpikoski bounced off of Alexei Emelin’s skate into the net as he sprawled across the ice to block a cross crease pass. Tokarski was already moving across the net and it deflected into the vacated side.

montreal canadiens vs arizona coyotes4Montreal not only lost the game, but may have lost centreman Lars Eller. He was crosschecked from behind by Brendan Shinnimin and went crashing into the post and net behind Domingue at the midway point of the 2nd period. Eller had to be helped off the ice and seemed to be in plenty of distress. He came out of the dressing room for a late period shift, but then returned and is said to be suffering from a lower body injury.

They say you reap what you sew and Montreal has sewn a lot of substandard hockey of late, but due to the excellence of Carey Price had earned wins they probably shouldn’t have. Now their lack of oomph and offense came back to haunt them. They wasted an early two goal lead to drop two important points against a team they should always win against. It was an ugly end to a five game winning streak and drops Montreal into 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, a point behind Tampa.

Next up for Montreal is another team they should beat, the Buffalo Sabres, on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

Game Stats:
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Mike Leggo and Garrett Rank
Linesmen – Lonnie Cameron and Darren Gibbs
-Goals: 1st Period:
1:15: Montreal Canadiens – Alex Galchenyuk assisted by Tom Gilbert and Brendan Gallagher
4:55: Montreal Canadiens – Alex Galchenyuk assisted by David Desharnais and Jiri Sekac
2nd Period:
17:43: Arizona – (pp) Lauri Korpikoski assisted by Martin Erat and Keith Yandle
3rd Period:
00:32: Arizona – Oliver Ekman-Larsson unassisted
3:17: Arizona – (pp) Lauri Korpikoski assisted by Sam Gagner and Keith Yandle
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 20
Arizona – 32
-Three Stars: 1) Lauri Korpikoski – Arizona
2) Alex Galchenyuk – Montreal
3) Louis Domingue – Arizona
-Attendance: 21, 286
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
Arizona – 3

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