French (Canadian) connection helps Coyotes snap 7-game skid

Mar 5, 2016, 11:36 PM | Updated: 11:39 pm
Arizona Coyotes' Alex Tanguay (40) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Anthony Du...
Arizona Coyotes' Alex Tanguay (40) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Anthony Duclair (10) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Panthers 5-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Louis Domingue came to a logical conclusion after a dominant performance by the Coyotes’ French-Canadian players on Saturday night at Gila River Arena.

“We need more of them,” he said.

The Florida Panthers might disagree.

The newly constructed French Connection line of Alex Tanguay, Antoine Vermette and Anthony Duclair accounted for three goals and nine points, and Domingue stopped 32 of 33 shots as the Coyotes snapped a season-high seven-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Panthers.

Tanguay had a pair of goals and an assist, Vermette matched a career-high with four points (goal, three assists) and Duclair added two assists for a line that coach Dave Tippett had hoped to debut two days earlier against the Anaheim Ducks before Tanguay was sidelined with a sprained knee.

“Sometimes it looks good on paper, but you never know on the ice or in practice how it’s going to pan out,” Vermette said. “Tonight, it worked out pretty good. I think we had a good mix out there.”

Tanguay has a sparkling resume that includes scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals. Despite that deep well of experience, he battled a case of butterflies before the game.

“Honestly, I had zero legs in the first period,” he said. “I was extremely nervous, couldn’t catch my breath out there, didn’t get much sleep this afternoon. Even though I’ve played for a little while it’s a little nerve-racking.

“I got a little lucky tonight. My teammates played great and gave me the puck in great opportunities and I’m happy we got the win.”

The Coyotes’ playoff hopes may be dead, but they still needed this win in the worst way after an 0-5 road trip and a disheartening loss to the Ducks on Thursday.

“We had a rough patch for a little while there,” said Vermette, who has had his own struggles from a production standpoint this season. “You want to contribute in the team’s success.”

The French-Canadian forwards should thank their French-Canadian goalie and Jordan Martinook for giving them the opportunity to turn the tide against Florida. With Florida looking to buck a recent trend of poor starts, Domingue was superb after a five-day break and kept the Panthers at bay in the first period.

“He was really good, and he had to be good,” coach Dave Tippett said. “He made some real good saves to keep us around the game.”

Martinook gave the Coyotes a shot in the arm just 29 seconds into the second period when he picked Reilly Smith’s pocket in the neutral zone during a Florida power play and scored on a shorthanded breakaway for a 1-0 lead.

“That was a real good effort play,” Tippett said. “We didn’t have a real good first period and then Marty came out and set the tone with that in the second period and it got us going.”

With the Coyotes in the midst of a youth movement, Tanguay, 36, doesn’t expect to be here past this season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. In that regard, he said he is using these final 18 games as an audition of both his skill and the veteran leadership he can bring to the room.

“Really what I want to do is keep playing,” Tanguay said before the Coyotes hosted the Florida Panthers on Saturday at Gila River Arena. “I haven’t had the type of year that I’d like to have, but this is an opportunity and I’d like to showcase myself.”

He couldn’t have scripted a better start. His line was clicking for the final two periods with the prettiest of their goals coming on a tic-tac-toe passing play from Duclair to Vermette to Tanguay for a 4-1 lead early in the third period.

If this line can produce anything close to this sort of effort over the final five weeks of the season, management will have to think long and hard about breaking up what Vermette is already calling the Triple-A line.

“Every time there’s guys around we want to be respectful and talk English,” Vermette said. “But if it’s just two of us or three of us, we might be cutting corners.”

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