They may have finally found the answer — by finding another
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
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
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"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
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
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.
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