In the desert, Coyotes young core shines bright, as Canadiens aging vets look paralyzed in Arizona’s 5-2 victory

The Canadiens (22-27-7) may have outshot the Arizona Coyotes (16-32-10) by a margin of 36-21 on Thursday night in Glendale, AZ, but this stat is hardly indicative of the effort put forth by a Montreal group that failed to show up in a humiliating 5-2 loss to the league’s lowest ranked team.

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Arizona Coyotes Tobias Rieder celebrates his eighth goal of the season in 5-2 victory over Montreal on Thursday night, (Image courtesy of the Arizona Coyotes)

In short, the rebuilding Coyotes looked like a group that is committed to growing together, and focused on progressing toward the future. Montreal, on the other hand, resembled a squad with an undefined core and is waiting for management to reassemble some of the roster’s core pieces that have proven all year it is past its expiration date and in need of a new direction.

The game got off to a sloppy start, which shouldn’t be a surprise given that both clubs rank in the league’s bottom five in terms of goals allowed this season. But Habs goalie Carey Price, and Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta both bailed out their teammates defensive lapses early on in the contest. Raanta, in particular, got away with “grand larceny” so to speak, when he exhibited an elite ability to move laterally and catch a one-timer off the stick of Canadiens rookie Nikita Scherbak. As the period progressed, it became clear that this deflated a Montreal offense that already lacked confidence entering the game, especially on the heals of a 2-0 shutout loss to Colorado less than 24 ago. Conversely, this remarkable stop by Raanta appeared to give the guys in front of him some momentum.

The young Coyotes took this momentum, and parlayed into the game’s opening goal. Arizona’s Clayton Keller, and one of the top rookie’s in the league this year, scored the icebreaker during a power play, on a heavy slap shot that whizzed by Carey Price. Tobias Rieder, who did not pick up an assist on the goal, contributed immensely with his ability to screen Montreal’s goalie on the play.

For Keller, the goal was his 17th, and part of a performance that saw him register four points, as the rookie sensation augmented his totals atop the team’s scoring leaderboard. Keller even managed to score without the use of his own hockey stick.

The game’s next turning point took place at the start of the second period, when another member of the Yotes young blossoming core managed to break open the game in a span of 19 seconds. At 57 seconds and again at a minute and 16 seconds into the period, Brandon Perlini notched his 15th and 16th goals of the season, surpassing his career high of 14 set last year.

For the remaining 18 minutes and 44 seconds of the second period, Montreal’s response was underwhelming to say the most. As rumors continue to swirl about most of the Habs roster in advance of the NHL’s upcoming trade-deadline on Feb. 26, and having played the night before with travel included, the Canadiens hardly looked inspired or unified.

5-2 W!!

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Finally, one of Montreal’s only bright-spots this season, Brendan Gallagher, got his team on the scoreboard with a gritty power play goal 5:46 into the game’s third period when he banked in a rebound from behind the goal line off of Raanta’s left pad for his team leading 21st of the campaign.

“Les glorieux”  would feed off of Gallagher’s goal, and follow it up when forward Daniel Carr buried his fourth at 7:38 of the period. This sudden dose of inspiration was short lived, however, as the Coyotes made Habs captain Max Pacioretty pay for an untimely holding penalty.

With 3:59 to play in the game, and down by a score of 4-2, Montreal’s Carey Price surrendered a soft goal to Josh Archibald of the Coyotes. Price, who appeared disinterested following the Perlini’s two goals early in the second period, looked particularly weak on a backhand from Archibald that was taken from at least 20 feet out and without anyone blocking his line of a vision.

For the Arizona Coyotes, a team building around youngsters like Clayton Keller, Tobias Rieder, Brandon Perlini, and netminder Antti Raanta, this game offered a glimpse into a desirable future for this organization. The Yotes brain trust must continue to build around this young and talented core, but this game showed a group that is progressing from their horrendous start to the regular season, and beginning to play with pride.

On the losing side, the Canadiens looked nonchalant and essentially went through the motions. Unlike the Coyotes, they do not have a group that is defined. They are not yet in the growing phase. General manager Marc Bergevin will undoubtedly be a seller prior to the trade deadline on Feb. 26, and in the summer. For now, as witnessed in yet another crushing loss, the players are waiting to see where they stand with the organization.

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