The Coyotes like eastern Canada. Not enough to move there, mind you, but in three games east of Manitoba, Arizona is 3-0 this season following Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
The win was the franchise’s second straight in Montreal after going 3-27-2-1 in the previous 33 games. The win also gave Arizona road wins over Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal in its only three games in Canada this season. It’s the first time the Coyotes have started the season 3-0 on the road in Canada since 1981, and the Coyotes did it despite getting outshot, 33-20.
Standings watching may seem pointless this early in the season, but the Coyotes continue to hang in the Pacific Division race as they prepare to reach the quarter pole of the season on Saturday in Winnipeg. With the win, Arizona jumped over Vancouver into third place, a point back of San Jose and three behind Los Angeles in a division that may very well earn just three playoff bids this season.
“We’re really not worrying about our record so much right now,” captain Shane Doan. “We have an idea, but we’re playing it really one game at a time.”
Mike Smith turned in his third strong outing in his last four starts with 31 saves, and the Coyotes penalty-killing unit put out all five fires the team created for itself by giving Montreal five power-play opportunities.
“That’s an area that we’ve got to correct,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We’re taking too many minor penalties but the penalty killing was strong and it started with Mike Smith.”
The Coyotes aided their cause by scoring first for the first time in their last seven games. Wing Anthony Duclair, who is from the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire, whipped around the net and fed center Martin Hanzal for the go-ahead goal at 5:04 of the first period.
Doan widened the lead about four minutes later when he knocked in a rebound of Tobias Rieder’s shot. Smith had an assist on the play.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson added a power-play goal early in the second period for the Coyotes to extend his career-long point streak to seven games (3-4-7). Arizona weathered a Max Pacioretty backhand later in the period, and a Dale Weise deflection with 51 seconds remaining in the game to snap a two-game losing streak.
With his fifth goal of the season, Hanzal is tied for 13th in the NHL in points with 18. Doan’s goal was the 373rd of his career, moving him within six goals of Dale Hawerchuk’s franchise record.