Theodore made 21 saves, and Saku Koivu and Richard Zednik each had a goal and an assist in Montreal’s 4-3 win over the Coyotes on Friday night. The two points gave the Canadiens 78 to New Jersey’s 81 with another big contest coming up Saturday night in Los Angeles.
“Back-to-back games this time of year, you’ve got to play well, and points are really important,” Theodore said. “I don’t think tonight we played the kind of game we wanted to play, which is a playoff type of game. We got some penalties that could have cost us.”
Special teams sparkled for Montreal, which got power-play goals from Pierre Dagenais and Koivu and a short-handed goal from Jim Dowd in his first game with the Canadiens. Andrei Markov had two assists, and they won again after seeing a five-game winning streak snapped Wednesday at San Jose.
The debut wasn’t as fortunate for Alex Kovalev, another forward seeing his first action for the Habs. He separated his right shoulder in the second period and was listed as day to day.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” Theodore said. “You got one of the top guys in the league, and he gets hurt.”
The Coyotes, winless in seven games (0-4-1-2) tried to rally from a 4-1 deficit in the third period and fell short.
Zednik produced the three-goal lead when he shot from the high slot after a pass from Markov, beating Brian Boucher 43 seconds in.
“It ended up being the winning goal,” coach Claude Julien said. “That type of game, we should have controlled it from there on in, but for the second game in a row we took some bad penalties, so we certainly have to get better in that area.”
Comrie made it 4-2 just 2:15 later, and Gratton scored a power-play goal at the 4:05 mark.
But the Canadiens allowed the Coyotes just four more shots the rest of the way, and Theodore handled them for the win.
“For whatever reason, we seem to play desperate when we get down a couple of goals, and we need to play like that at the start,” Langkow said.
After a scoreless first period, the Canadiens scored three times in the second.
They broke through against Boucher, who had 10 of his 21 saves in the first period, when Dagenais deflected Markov’s wrist shot 2:46 in.
Phoenix responded 40 seconds later when Langkow wristed a rebound over a fallen Theodore, but Montreal regained the lead with 6:29 remaining on a brilliant play by Andreas Dackell.
He stole the puck from Shane Doan along the boards, skated into the left circle and passed across to Dowd at the crease. Dowd, acquired Thursday from Minnesota, redirected the puck just enough to bank it in off the opposite goal post.
“Dacks made a great play there,” Dowd said. “I drove to the net. It was on his forehand. I knew he was going to try to pass. The defense played it well, and he made a great backhand pass just right at my tape end.”
Koivu also profited from a mistake by Phoenix’s captain—Doan was in the penalty box for slashing when the Finnish center’s shot from above the circle found its way through Boucher’s pads with 4:24 to go.
“I know it looks like four goals on 25 shots, but I felt better about mygame,” said Boucher, 1-12-2 in his last 15 starts.
Montreal LW Niklas Sundstrom missed his third straight game with post-concussion syndrome. He did not make a four-game road trip which ends Monday in Anaheim. … Phoenix RW Mike Rupp, acquired from New Jersey earlier Friday, was a healthy scratch. … The Coyotes are 4-15-3-3 since their season-best, six-game unbeaten streak ended on Jan. 13. … Montreal’s YanicPerreault had an assist for 399 career points.