GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes’ three French-Canadians avoid speaking French too loudly in the locker room.
“The Swedish guys take advantage of it and they don’t get any heckling,” forward Anthony Duclair said. “But when we start speaking French, guys get all over us.”
For one night, the Quebecois were crowing loudly. Pointe-Claire native Duclair had a goal and an assist, Saint-Hyacinthe native Louis Domingue made 17 saves and Saint-Agapit native Antoine Vermette capped off the scoring as the Coyotes defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 6-2, on Monday at Gila River Arena to sweep the season series from the Canadiens for the first time.
The win pulled Arizona within four points of Colorado and Nashville for the Western Conference’s two wild card spots. Arizona has three games in hand on Colorado; one on Nashville.
“I guess it’s always fun to beat (Montreal), but the whole situation back home is more fun for the people that are watching; my friends and family,” Domingue said.
Vermette has been in the league 12 seasons with Ottawa, Columbus, Arizona and Chicago, but he said he has never been in a situation where has played with two other French-Canadians.
“This is way unusual for me,” Vermette said. “For the majority of my career, I’ve been the only guy from around that area. You would think in Ottawa we would have had one guy, but I’m used to being on my own.”
Vermette said he wants to implement a policy that whenever other players are around, he, Domingue and Duclair must speak English. It’s not that he objects to his native tongue. It’s just easier than trying to teach the others French.
“Especially Doaner,” Vermette quipped.
Monday’s game was a productive one for more than just the French-Canadians. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a goal and two assists to move within one goal of San Jose’s Brent Burns for the NHL lead in goals by defensemen.
Center Martin Hanzal continued his hot streak with a goal and two assists, giving him three goals and five points in his last four games.
Arizona also held Montreal to 19 shots, the second lowest total the Coyotes have allowed all year (New Jersey on Jan. 16).
“We were pretty solid,” coach Dave Tippett said. “It was a pretty good team effort all the way through.”
Maybe so, but for one night, the stage belonged to the French-Canadians.
“I was rooting for them; I was a big Habs fan,” said Duclair, who has at least a point (1-4-5) in all four games against Montreal in his career. “I didn’t go to too many games because it was hard to get tickets, but every time I went my eyes would pop out.
“It’s pretty special for us French guys every time we play the Habs. They’re feeling the same way I am right now.”