Monday afternoon’s game between the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens may have been lovingly dubbed the “Lottery Bowl,” but make no mistake: the Coyotes came to play.
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Arizona jumped out to an early two-goal lead, and then kept the Canadiens at arm’s length the rest of the way, ultimately winning 5-2 at Gila River Arena in a battle between the league’s bottom two teams. It was the Coyotes’ ninth win of the season, and also their first by at least three goals. They are 4-3-2 in their last nine games, dating back to Dec. 17.
Related: Coyotes’ Keller Growing Into Leader Team Needs
Yes, the win puts the Coyotes three points up on the Canadiens, and both have played 37 games to this point, but the fact is both clubs will have the opportunity to draft an extremely talented prospect this summer. Besides, with the lottery in play, the top overall selection is far from a guarantee.
That said, for anyone keeping track, the Coyotes and Canadiens play once more on March 15.
Here are three takeaways from Arizona’s 5-2 win over Montreal.
Boyd, Larsson Jump Start Offense Early
Monday’s game just felt like it was a little slow to start, and forwards Travis Boyd and Johan Larsson capitalized, as they scored three minutes apart to help the Coyotes jump out to a 2-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game. It was a refreshing change of pace for Arizona, which has typically fallen victim to early-game deficits, as opposed to leads.
Not on Monday.
Nick Schmaltz and Janis Moser also scored, Clayton Keller added a goal and an assist, and Arizona bounced back after a 5-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. The 2 pm puck drop was a little different than the normal 7 pm start time, though forward Antoine Roussel had no issue with the early start.
One thing’s for sure: It didn’t interrupt his normal pregame routine of crepes and maple syrup.
“I actually love [the early start]. I wish we’d play at 2 every day,” Roussel said. “The kids were in the stands, they were bouncing. It’s kind of nice, I wish we had more games like that.”
Regardless of their pregame fuel, the Coyotes started Monday’s game with a clear jump in their step. The Canadiens, for their part, responded, and kept the game close throughout the afternoon, but were never able to pull even with Arizona.
“After we took the lead 2-0, maybe we slowed down a little bit there,” assistant coach Mario Duhamel said after the game. “Beside that 10 minutes in the first, we came back strong in the second and third to shut them down, and that was a good team effort in general, and we’re really happy about the final score.”
Montreal has lost six straight games.
Schmaltz Bounces Back With 2 Points
Schmaltz had a monster game for the Coyotes on Monday, notching one goal and two assists, a promising sign for the 25-year-old center who has struggled with injuries and production this season. He had just one point in his last seven games leading up to the Canadiens game, and had not scored a goal since Dec. 11.
“I’m not going to make excuses, I still gotta do what I can, just keep competing, and bring it every night,” he said. “Help the team as much as I can, and it’s fun to see us get a couple wins here recently, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Schmaltz is two seasons removed from his career-best 45 point season, in which he scored 11 goals and chipped in 34 assists. Last season’s 32-point campaign was solid, but it’s been slow going for the center this year. He was strong in his return after missing almost two months with an injury, but his play regressed, which didn’t earn him any favor amongst the coaching staff.
“He’s been in, I will say, the dog house for a little bit after [his return], but for the right reasons, and he understood why,” Duhamel said. “That’s the main thing. He understood why, and he knew, and he grinded it out.”
Roussel has taken note of how hard Schmaltz has worked to get his game back into form.
“He’s a hell of a player,” Roussel said. “It’s nice to see him build forward, getting better every night, getting more involved physically, and getting into traffic.”
Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme challenged Schmaltz’s goal for goalie interference after Roussel made contact with goalie Cayden Primeau, but officials ultimately ruled that a Montreal player ultimately caused the contact, and the goal stood. It should be noted that Arizona, which has struggled with the man advantage this season, did not score on the ensuing power play, and was 0-for-5 on the night.
Moser Continues to Impress in Rookie Season
Moser, the 21-year-old rookie defenseman, recorded his third goal in just his 10th career NHL game. He is now a team-leading plus-5 on the season, has five points on the year, and is quickly developing into one of the most dependable defensemen on the team.
The former second-round draft pick sure opened some eyes with his goal on Monday, skating through the left circle and into heavy traffic before sending a backhand past Montreal goalie Cayden Primeau. He also chipped in an assist in the game.
Duhamel didn’t mince words when describing the goal after the game.
“It was a pretty nice one,” he chuckled, “that’s for sure.”
The Coyotes will now head east for a four-game roadtrip with stops in New Jersey, New York (both the Islanders and Rangers), and Pittsburgh before returning to Glendale for back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 28 and 29, respectively.