Every game is a must win and a sense of desperation permeates the artificially chilled air at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Az. Knowing that the season is on the line every night the Phoenix Coyotes came out swinging and knocked off the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Thursday night.
“It was a good atmosphere,” Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said. “Playing a Canadian team and there were lots of fans in the stands. We need every point we can get. It was a big game for us.”
Phoenix scored three-goals in the first period and a pair in the final stanza to improve their record to 29-23-11. The Coyotes are one-point behind the Dallas Stars for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. On Thursday night Dallas beat the Vancouver Canucks to maintain their slim lead over Phoenix.
Vrbata paced the Coyotes with a pair of goals and was paired with recently acquired forward Martin Erat on many shifts. Erat was shipped to the Coyotes in a trade with the Washington Capitals and despite it being his first game with Phoenix he seems to have developed a rapport with Vrbata.
“This is just his (Erat) first game, so don't read too much into it,” Vrbata said. “But as I said it felt good to be on the ice with him and I think we fed off each other on the ice and hopefully we'll get better.”
Shane Doan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Lauri Korpikoski each tallied a goal to round out the scoring for Phoenix.
Coyote goalie Mike Smith made 24-saves and notched his 22nd win of the season. In his last six games he surrendered 10-goals.
The Coyotes have won two-straight and will be on the road for their next four games. The road trip starts Saturday against the Washington Capitals and continues with games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins.
“I'm looking forward to getting on the road,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “I think it'll be good for our group to get on the road, playing in some tough places... We're going to have to play a real disciplined, hard road style if we're going to win. That's a good challenge for our team.”