Friday, March 07, 2014
Sports News

Coyotes beat Habs for first time since '98

Send a link to a friend  Share

[March 07, 2014]  GLENDALE Ariz.  Since forward Ray Whitney left Arizona as a free agent, the Phoenix Coyotes have been searching for the right playing partner for the Czech forward duo of Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata.

They may have finally found the answer  by finding another Czech.

With newly-acquired veteran forward Martin Erat playing on his left side and center Kyle Chipchura subbing for the injured Hanzal, Vrbata had his first two goal game since Nov. 27, and the Coyotes beat the Montreal Canadiens for the first time in more than 15 years, 5-2 on Thursday.

"He is a smart player with the puck and he can make plays," Vrbata said. "I tried to get open for him as much as I could. We were kind of on the same page, so that was nice."

Vrbata, forward Lauri Korpikoski and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson all scored first-period goals to help the Coyotes jump out to an early lead. Vrbata added his second of the night and 16th of the season at 11:43 of the third period to give Phoenix a two-goal cushion.

Winger Shane Doan tipped in defenseman Keith Yandle's shot to add his 18th goal at 13:28 to ice the win and give Phoenix its first five-goal game in two months.

Center Mike Ribeiro added two assists for the Coyotes, who last beat Montreal on Dec. 9, 1998, at America West Arena in Phoenix (now US Airways Center) and had gone 0-9-2 against the Canadiens since.

Goaltender Mike Smith made 24 saves for the Coyotes, who stayed one point behind the Dallas Stars in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"We need this win bad. These are desperate points for us before we go on the (four-game road) trip," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "As far as the trade, Erat looks like he's a good NHL player and his first impressions were positive. I thought Chipchura filled in real well with those two guys and made a couple of nice plays there that really helped us."

Defenseman Andrei Markov and Alex Galchenyuk scored for Montreal and goalie Peter Budaj, subbing for the injured starter Carey Price, made 18 saves. The Canadiens lost in regulation for just the second time in their last nine games (6-2-1) and needed time to get going after Wednesday's 4-3 shootout win at Anaheim.

"We played late, traveled all night and we looked like it early," Habs coach Michel Therrien said. "Before we got going we got into trouble. The second period we were skating, moving, finding our legs and this is where we were at our best."

The newest Canadien, winger Thomas Vanek, played 15 minutes and had only one shot on goal, although he had several nice plays on the Montreal power-play, which clicked on Galchenyuk's goal in the second period.

[to top of second column]

"I was really nervous and it was a long day for me," Vanek said. "Early on we didn't play great and got down a couple of goals. In this league, if you are chasing it's hard to get a groove."

Phoenix scored two goals or less in seven straight games before scoring three times in the first 19:51 of play. Vrbata tipped home a Schlemko shot at 2:04, Korpikoski deflected home winger Michael Stone's shot on the power play at 15:04 and Ekman-Larsson beat Budaj over the glove with a wrist shot with 8.5 seconds left in the period.

Markov scored for Montreal at 7:13 of the first  a goal that came in and out of the net so quickly it had be confirmed through video review. Then, with Erat and Ekman-Larsson in the box serving two of Phoenix's four second-period penalties, Galchenyuk deflected a huge slap shot from Montreal defenseman P.J. Subban at 14:53 for a 5-on-3 power-play goal.

Phoenix lost defenseman David Schlemko during the sequence when he took a Subban slap shot off his ankle. He did not return and is listed as day-to-day.

But the Coyotes took control again in the third. Chipchura had a takeaway in the neutral zone and set-up feed to Vrbata, who beat Budaj between the pads to give Phoenix a 4-2 cushion.

NOTES: Phoenix C Martin Hanzal missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury, delaying plans to play new Coyote LW Martin Erat with fellow Czechs Hanzal and RW Radim Vrbata. C Kyle Chipchura played between Erat and Vrbata. ... New Montreal LW Thomas Vanek played on the left side of C Tomas Plekanec and RW Brian Gionta. ... Montreal D Josh Georges returned to Montreal after suffering a fractured hand in the 4-3 shootout win at Anaheim Wednesday. He was replaced by D Mike Weaver, who, like Vanek, was acquired at the trade deadline. ... Plekanec played in his 663rd game with Montreal, passing Shayne Corson for 27th on the all-time franchise list. ... The Coyotes were seeking back-to-back wins for just the third time since Nov. 5. They won two in a row on Jan. 16-18 and Dec. 10-12. ... Phoenix G Mike Smith has all three of his shutouts this season in his last 12 starts.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

< Sports index

Back to top