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Coyotes' penalty kill gain momentum in 10-game stretch with win over Canadiens

Whether the Arizona Coyotes and Montréal Canadiens liked it or not, officiating played a big role in Thursday’s contest.

With a penalty shot and an overturned goal, it was a back-and-forth affair that ended with the Coyotes taking a 3-2 win at Mullett Arena.

Nick Schmaltz scored one of his two goals on a penalty shot in the first period, while tallying the game-winner on the power play in the third period.

Now that the Coyotes (5-4-1) have reached the 10-game mark, there’s a chance for the players to have a clearer picture of how the season’s start has been going. The 4-3 overtime loss in Anaheim the night before remained inside the players’ heads and nearly gave a sour ending to the opening stretch.

“I think we’re playing really good hockey. Five-on-five, we’re a tough team to play against. We create a lot of offense, we’re defending very well, and on special teams, our power play has been clicking,” forward Lawson Crouse said. “We could probably have a few more points in the standings than we do right now. We’ve felt that we’ve let teams off the hook, especially in the last week and that was a big focus today.”

Benefiting from the calls

The Coyotes got its first goal on a call from the referees and were later helped by an overturned call on a Canadiens goal in the first period.

Over the last two games, the top line has struggled to produce and got a break when Canadiens defenseman Justin Barron covered the puck with his glove in the crease, setting up Schmaltz for a penalty shot at 6:17.

The Coyotes had a few defensive breakdowns near the end of the period and the Canadiens took advantage when Nick Suzuki backhanded the puck into the net for a 2-1 lead at 15:32. However, head coach André Tourigny called a challenge and the call was overturned for offsides.

Penalty kill showing up for special teams

Early on in the game, the penalty kill was tested with three consecutive power plays from the Canadiens in the first two periods.

The Coyotes haven’t shut teams down on the penalty kill with a 72.2% success rate, good for 28th in the league. However, it was a step in the right direction for the penalty kill to shut down four of the five power plays from the Canadiens.

“We stayed under control, we stayed composed, and we pushed through. We had adversity against a great team on the other side,” Tourigny said. “Our PK tonight was solid. We’ve gotten a lot of momentum on our PK.”

After going on the penalty kill three times, the Coyotes finally earned a power play at the end of the second period. While the man advantage didn’t yield results, it set up Matias Maccelli for a slick seam pass over to Lawson Crouse to take a 2-1 lead at 19:21. Crouse has scored three goals in the last two games.

Controversial call in third

Clayton Keller got a roughing call in the beginning of the third period after a collision with Canadiens defenseman Mike Matheson. The call drew ire and was reviewed for a possible major.

Keller’s penalty sent out the penalty kill unit and became detrimental when Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher scored up the slot on the power play to tie the game 2-2 at 2:59.

The Coyotes eventually found a way to respond on special teams when a cross-checking call on Arber Xhekaj allowed for the power play unit to come out. Logan Cooley then hit Schmaltz with a well-timed pass on the rush for the game-winning goal.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Coyotes beat Canadiens, gain momentum after 10-game stretch