The Arizona Coyotes have the toughest second half schedules in the NHL, but the Coyotes are not letting a difficult schedule stop them from getting points. This week the Coyotes faced some of the best teams on the league, coming out with a four of a possible six points.
On Monday the Coyotes played host to the Montreal Canadiens for the second time and final time this season. Before the game could even start the Coyotes were attracting attention. Back-up goalie Ander Lindback injured himself in warm-ups, which forced the Coyotes to call an emergency goalie. Nate Schoenfeld, son of former Coyotes coach and son-in-law of Coyotes equipment manager, rushed to the arena to dress for his first NHL game. Even though he did not play, Schoenfeld received the championship belt for the night.
After the pre-game craziness, Arizona opened the scoring off a goal from Martin Hanzal (9), but five minutes later Montreal answered with a goal. Dale Weise (13) tied the score at 1 at the half way mark of the first period. The score did not hold long, as Anthony Duclair (16) put the Coyotes back on top with a power play goal. Brad Richardson (6) gave the Coyotes a two-goal lead in the third, but Brendan Gallagher (15) put the Canadiens back within one.
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After Gallagher’s goal, the game began to escalate with Oliver Ekman-Larsson (17) scoring on the power play then Kevin Connauton (2) putting the Coyotes up 5-2 after two periods. In the third Antoine Vermette (9) put the finishing touches on the Coyotes 6-2 win over the Canadiens. With the win the Coyotes swept the season series from Montreal for the first time in team history. Martin Hanzal got the first star of the night after scoring once and assisting on two other goals.
Coming off the win over Montreal, the Coyotes faced the Central Division leading Dallas Stars in a pivotal game. This was a game in which the Coyotes work hard for a full-60 minutes. They battled hard all night and were rewarded a solid win. Arizona put themselves in a first period hole after Tyler Seguin scored his 31st goal on the season.
The Stars lead until early in the second period, when Max Domi netted his 14th goal of the season, off a beautiful pass from Anthony Duclair. On a power play opportunity, the Stars capitalized with a Jamie Benn (30) goal, giving them a 2-1 lead. It did not take long for the Coyotes to answer, and 51 seconds later Michael Stone (4) tied the score at two. Minutes later Max Domi scored his 15th goal and second of the night to put the Coyotes up by one heading into the third.
Martin Hanzal (10) put Arizona up by two with a power play goal, and a minute later Dallas’ Ales Hemsky (8) put the Stars back within one. I guess the Coyotes did not like the closeness of the score, because less than a minute later Tyler Gaudet scored his first NHL goal to put Arizona back up by two. Antoine Vermette (10) finished the scoring, and the Coyotes won 6-3. Max Domi got the much-needed first star after netting two goals and assisting on another.
Trying to continue their win streak, the Coyotes hosted one of the best teams in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes started out hot, with Shane Doan (22) scoring just second into the game, but minutes later the momentum turned.
At the 1:08 mark of the first period, Vladimir Tarasenko (28) scored on the power play and the domino effect continued when Alex Steen (17) scored minutes later. Things began to spiral out of control when Jaden Schwartz (4) and Carl Gunnarsson (2) scored before the halfway mark of the first period. Down 4-1 Coyotes starting goaltender Louis Domingue was pulled, giving Niklas Treutle his NHL debut. Treutle shutdown the Blues to end the first, and Kevin Connauton scored his third goal of the year mid-way through the second, cutting the Blues lead to two.
Facing a two-goal deficit in the third, Max Domi (16) scored 50 seconds in, cutting the lead to one. The Coyotes seemed to be gaining momentum, but Patrik Berlund (5) scored and put the Blues back up by two. It took until the last-minute for the Coyotes to find the net again, and again it was Max Domi (17). Even though the Coyotes battled hard, David Backes 14th goal of the season, an empty netter, secured the Blues 6-4 win. Tarasenko got the first star for the Blues, after a goal and an assist in the game.
The Coyotes will now face a stretch of four games in six nights, and a five game road trip. This week the Coyotes will play in DC on Monday, against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, at the suddenly successful Panthers on Thursday, and in Philadelphia on Saturday.
If the Coyotes can begin the rack up points, they can begin to gain ground in the division and the wildcard. This will be a very tough week for Arizona, but if they play a full-60 minutes every game, they can’t be beat.