GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Phoenix Coyotes were on their heels after building a two-goal lead, spending most of the second period in their own zone.
After losing a two-goal lead four days earlier, the last thing they wanted was to do it again, particularly this late in the season and against a team they’ve struggled against.
Instead of folding, the Coyotes fought back, earning a crucial win before they head off on a four-game road trip.
Radim Vrbata scored two goals and the Coyotes bounced back from a shaky second period to beat Montreal 5-2 Thursday night for their first win over the Canadiens since 1998.
"We talked about coming out like we did in the first, and I think we did a pretty good job in the third," said Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had a goal and an assist. "It wasn’t great, but we got two points."
With the Canadiens coming off a six-round shootout the night before, the Coyotes wanted to jump on them early, and they did just that. Vrbata scored 2:08 in, Lauri Korpikoski had his first goal in 19 games and Ekman-Larsson scored — his 100th career point — in the final seconds of the first period to put Phoenix up 3-1.
The Canadiens picked up the pressure and the Coyotes spent most of the second period chasing, getting off one shot while serving a string of penalties. Alex Galchenyuk scored midway through the period on a two-man advantage, cutting the margin to 3-2.
But after blowing a two-goal lead against the Blues on Sunday, the Coyotes stiffened.
Vrbata made it a two-goal lead in the third period and Keith Yandle scored less than two minutes later to put it out of reach, giving Phoenix its first winning streak since Jan. 16-18.
Mike Ribeiro and Kyle Chipchura added a pair of assists for the Coyotes, who hadn’t beaten the Canadiens since Dec. 9, 1998 (0-9-2).
"These are desperate points for us before we go on the road," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We needed this one badly."
The Canadiens came out flat after beating the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks in the extended shootout the night before, allowing the Coyotes to dictate play.
Montreal dominated the second period, leading to a series of penalties by the Coyotes, but couldn’t sustain it in the third when Phoenix picked up the pressure.
Andrei Markov had a goal and an assist and P.K. Subban had a pair of assists for the Canadiens.
"We started the game like a team who played last night and traveled and came here at 3 o’clock in the morning," Montreal coach Michel Therrien. "Before we got going we were in trouble, so we had to play catch-up hockey, and it’s never the solution to win hockey games."
Phoenix made one big move at the trade deadline, picking up forward Martin Erat, who played on the second line with Chipchura — in place of injured center Martin Hanzal– and Vrbata.
Montreal also added a big reinforcement, picking up high-scoring forward Thomas Vanek in a deal that sent a prospect and a draft pick to the New York Islanders.
Erat had the impact on his new team first, helping the Coyotes score on his first shift when Vrbata redirected a shot by David Schlemko and sent it bouncing past Peter Budaj.
Markov tied it later in the period on a slap shot from the left circle that bounced off the post and out of the net so quickly that the officials didn’t count it until after reviewing it about a minute later.
Korpikoski put Phoenix back on top late in the period on another redirect, this one on a shot by Michael Stone for his first goal since Jan. 11. Ekman-Larsson put the Coyotes up 3-1 with 8.5 seconds left, beating Budaj on a wrister after a pass by Ribeiro from behind the goal.
"I think sometimes it’s travel, but that’s not an excuse," Budaj said of Montreal’s slow start. "It’s not an excuse; you’ve got to be ready, and I don’t think we were ready right off the hop."
The Canadiens fought back in the second period and spent most of the period in Phoenix’s end, leading to a series of penalties, including a long 5-on-3 that led to Galchenyuk’s on a redirect.
But, after going more than 21 minutes without a shot, the Coyotes regained control, getting a second goal from Vrbata and a redirect by Doan to remain ninth in the Western Conference standings.
NOTES: Hanzal missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. … A slashing call against Ribeiro early in the second period was the Coyotes’ first penalty in nearly 90 minutes. … The Canadiens had a goal by Brendan Gallagher waved off in the second period when David Desharnais was called for being in the crease.