Jeff Tibbins The Hockey Writers
Canadiens’ Road Struggles Continue
The struggles on the road continued for the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, as they fell to the Arizona Coyotes 5-2, becoming the only team in the NHL to lose to the last-place team in the league for the second time this season.
After a first period which saw the Canadiens give up numerous odd-man rushes, including two on the power play three minutes into the game, Claude Julien’s squad found themselves trailing 1-0. That didn’t last long in the second. Just 57 seconds in, Brendan Perlini scored two goals in 19 seconds to give the Coyotes a 3-0 lead.
“It always difficult when you’re playing catch up, said Julien following the loss. “We managed to rebound, but it’s still something that continues to haunt us. It continues to make this season difficult.”
The Canadiens clawed their way back to 3-2, thanks to goals from Brendan Gallagher and Daniel Carr in the third period, but ultimately, it proved to be not enough, as the Canadiens lost their league-high 18th away game in regulation.
“We need to consistently bring the same effort that we give at home,” said defenceman Joe Morrow. “We have to have the same mindset and come together as a group in the room beforehand and realize that road games are a little harder to win. We have such a great fan base, stadium and atmosphere to play in back home that it definitely propels you to bring a little extra in the game. On the road, I think we just have to figure out that it’s a little more difficult than it is at home.”
Pacioretty Struggling Amid Trade Speculation
Captain Max Pacioretty, who was called for the penalty 10 minutes into the third that lead to the Coyotes game-winning goal, was mostly unnoticeable in his eighth-straight game without a goal. Pacioretty’s struggles this season have been a focal point of discussion, and it seems that the constant trade speculation has affected the 29-year-old’s play on the ice.
“I felt really bad when the Coyotes scored on my penalty,” said Pacioretty. “I didn’t like the call by the referees, though. It was a battle in front of the net, and my stick had just been held. I guess he only saw what I did.”
Montreal largely outplayed the Coyotes in the game. In all situations, the Canadiens led the Coyotes in Corsi-for percentage (64.39%-35.61%), shots on goal (36-21), scoring chances (49-19), and high dangerous chances (18-4). Goaltender Antti Ranta proved to be the difference-maker, stopping 34 shots, none more impressive than his miraculous glove save on Canadiens rookie Nikita Scherbak on the power play early in the opening frame.
“I liked the way we came out in the third and still pushed,” said Gallagher, who leads all Canadiens players with 21 goals this season. “We got the two quick goals we needed and felt like we had them on their heels. But they executed on the power play and got one back. You can’t dig yourself into a hole, especially on the road, and that hurt us tonight.”
Not the Carey Price Montreal is Used to.
His counterpart, Carey Price, was not nearly as sharp on the night. After giving up a weak first period goal, Price was visibly annoyed, shooting the puck against the boards in frustration. Five goals were the second most Price has surrendered in a game this season, and his .904 save percentage and 2.97 goals against average ranks 36th and 32nd in the leagues for goalies with at least 20 games started, respectively. For a team that relies so heavily on their goalie like the Canadiens, do, a performance like Price’s on Thursday certainly will not cut it.
The next stop on the Canadiens four-game road trip is Vegas on Saturday night where they face the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights before travelling to Philadelphia to face the Flyers next Tuesday.
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