Mired in something of a mini-slump, the Montreal Canadiens could use a game against a franchise they have thoroughly dominated for more than 20 years. The weary Canadiens, losers of three of four, will look to extend their winning streak against Phoenix to nine games when they host the Coyotes on Tuesday night.
Montreal has lost twice in 18 matchups with the Coyotes since they relocated from Winnipeg prior to the 1996-97 season. The Canadiens have 12 wins and four ties against Phoenix in that span.
The Canadiens (20-12-3) allowed 19 total goals during a 9-0-1 stretch Nov. 19-Dec. 7 that featured solid victories over Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Boston and two against Washington. Montreal, however, has fallen off that pace with three losses in the past week, likely due in part to playing 11 games in 19 days.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey in less than three weeks,” coach Michel Therrien said. “This team is drained. They’re empty. The lemon is squeezed of all its juice.”
That seems apparent with the Canadiens managing three goals in their last four games. Their lone victory during that stretch was 1-0 in overtime against the lowly New York Islanders. They’ve gone 1 for 19 on the power play over the previous seven.
“When, physically, you’re tired, the execution is not quite there, and you make bad decisions,” Therrien said after Sunday’s 2-1 home loss to Florida. “They go hand in hand.”
Despite their fatigue, the Canadiens had their chances against the Panthers. They pulled within one in the third period on Alex Galchenyuk’s power-play goal before failing to convert on two Florida penalties, including 35 seconds with a 5-on-3.
“We had an opportunity to win the game, and we wanted to win the game,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. “We have to capitalize on our opportunities.”
The good news for Montreal is that it does not play another back-to-back set before getting a chance to recharge during a week-long holiday break from Dec. 21-28.
The Coyotes (18-9-5) are heading north to play the first three on a four-game trip through eastern Canada. Phoenix also visits Toronto and Ottawa before the swing ends in Buffalo.
Phoenix lost for the third time in its last five Saturday, a 3-1 defeat against Carolina. The Coyotes had earned points in three straight games.
The team has managed to produce lately without several key players. Captain Shane Doan has missed four straight with an unknown illness, defenseman Derek Morris has also missed four in a row and left wing Lauri Korpikoski has been out for the last 11.
Doan told the team’s official website that he has responded to medicine and is feeling better, but his status for the road trip remains uncertain.
“We’ll have to wait and see how I’m feeling after a couple days,” Doan said Saturday. “I’m starting to come around, and now I’m comfortable and able to get out and do things.”
The Coyotes earned both of their wins against Montreal since relocation within the first five meetings. They haven’t beaten the Canadiens since a 4-2 home victory Dec. 9, 1998. The other win came in their first game in Montreal as the Coyotes on Oct. 28, 1996.