Turning the tables
MONTREAL – It might have taken two periods for the Canadiens’ engines to rev up on Tuesday night, but when they did, Michel Therrien’s troops stepped on the gas and never looked back, besting the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1 at the Bell Centre.
Outshot 15-3 in the opening frame, the Habs ultimately turned the tables on a Coyotes team that appeared primed to pick up the win through 40 minutes of play. Dave Tippett’s squad outplayed and outgunned the Canadiens early on, taking a 1-0 lead to the locker room at the second intermission.
Then, with one blast, the momentum shifted in the Habs’ favour for good.
“We were going pretty well early in the third. But, as soon as Marky fired that one in, Marky doesn’t show too much emotion, but you know he was fired up when he leans into a slap shot like that,” offered Max Pacioretty, referencing Andrei Markov’s power play tally at the 2:26 mark of the third period that eked past Coyotes netminder Mike Smith to tie things up at one.
“He got the guys going a bit. I think that was one of the better periods of hockey we played this season, so we used that as a building block,” added Pacioretty, citing the relentlessness with which the Canadiens attacked the Coyotes' goal in the third period, outshooting Phoenix by a 14-5 margin.
Among those feeding off that renewed sense of energy from Markov’s early-period equalizer was Pacioretty himself, who went on to notch the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal just under 11 minutes later while the Canadiens were up a man once again.
“Our confidence was down early, and we knew that we had more to give than we had been in the past. We were waiting for that one break to win a game,” confided the New Canaan, CT native, who went on to add his second goal of the game – an empty-netter with three seconds remaining in regulation time – to up his goal count to a team-leading 14 markers on the year, 11 of which have come on Bell Centre ice. “It’s a confidence thing. This game is so much between the ears, and I think once you get a couple of bounces, everyone was playing well in the third period and we built off each other’s energy and that’s what makes our team go.”
Despite the fact that the Canadiens picked up their first victory of the season when trailing after two periods, the manner in which they went about making it happen didn’t necessarily sit well with Josh Gorges. In the aftermath of the Habs’ 21st victory of the year, the veteran rearguard insisted the bleu-blanc-rouge continue to play with fire by failing to come out of the gate at full speed.
“[I’m] not completely [satisfied]. I think we found a way. That’s a character win for us,” mentioned Gorges, who logged 22:51 of ice time against the Coyotes, while amassing four of the Canadiens’ 27 blocked shots on the night. “The way we started the game can’t go on anymore and we’ve seen too much of it in the last five or six games. We have to stop that right now. Five-on-five, especially early on, we can’t play like that. It’s too hard to come from behind and try to steal a win.”
Fortunately, in their final appearance before the Bell Centre faithful in 2013, the Habs did just that. Set to contest their next six games away from the friendly confines of their own building, the come-from-behind win over the Desert Dogs was a good way to cap this portion of the home schedule before heading out on the road come Wednesday afternoon.
“We know we haven’t been that good lately. It was a big way to finish the game for us,” noted Brendan Gallagher. “Obviously, these fans are awesome for us and we use them every night. For them to give us the energy that we needed was huge.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Carey Price, who turned aside 26 shots on Tuesday night en route to registering his 16th win of the season.
“It was a big game. We’re not going to be at home for a while and to be able to beat a good team like that is definitely a feather in our cap,” praised the Canadiens netminder. “We’re going on the road and we’re going to try to get four more points [against St. Louis and Nashville] before the Christmas break.”
That would certainly make for a nice holiday gift for Habs players and fans alike.