The Arizona Coyotes have a lot to be happy about.
Their five-game Eastern Conference road trip was a success. Arizona picked up four wins in five games, culminating with a 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
In back-to-back games, a 5-3 result against the Ottawa Senators on Monday and Tuesday’s win in Montreal, the Coyotes (19-36-4) were outshot 43-15 and 37-12 respectively.
Backup Scott Wedgewood grabbed the win in Ottawa while rookie Karel Vejmelka, one of the quiet surprises in Arizona, notched the final victory of the trip. Teammates including Barrett Hayton have confidence in their games with both of them blocking mountains of shots.
“[Vejmelka] and [Wedgewood] have been outstanding the entire time so we have a lot of confidence,” Hayton said. “We’re playing hard in front of the net, trying to take away those second chances, some of those Grade-As. Obviously we’d like to limit some shots, that’s something we need to work on, but we have a lot of confidence in our goalies.”
Coach Andre Tourigny said that Vejmelka has done “extraordinary work” since signing as a free agent from Czech club Brno Kometa in the off-season. The 25-year-old made his way from Arizona’s development camp to become the Coyotes’ starter.
“I joked about that once. I said: ‘He must be the only starting goalie in the league to show up at a postgame news conference with a shirt that reads ‘Development Camp’ on it,”' he said. “There aren’t a lot of guys from the 2021 development camps that played as many NHL games as he has.”
Tourigny kept his emotions in check on his homecoming. He coached the QMJHL’s 67s, and Quebec is his home province. He admitted that he won’t keep the Montreal game puck and is much happier about the people in attendance.
“I saw my mom before the game and she was tearing up and I know that it will be the same when I see her later,” Tournigny said. “I’m not worried about the puck, it’s the people. To see my mom, my sister, my friends in the stands next to the next, that means a lot to me.”
Barrett Hayton, Anton Stralman, Nick Ritchie, Lawson Crouse, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz scored for Arizona. Karel Vejmelka gave up three goals on 39 shots
Laurent Dauphin scored and Cole Caufield made things interesting with two goals in the span of eight seconds but the Canadiens (16-36-8) couldn’t match Arizona’s tally.
“If we take the game as a whole I think we played well,” said Paul Byron. “The shots they took went in and ours didn’t. I think that we’d win this game nine times out of 10.”
The Canadiens pulled their goalie for a league-leading 11th time this season after Samuel Montembeault allowed four goals on seven shots in the first period. Cayden Primeau gave up one goal from 12 shots in relief.
“We deserved better tonight. I’m really happy with the way my team is playing,” said Canadiens interim coach Martin St. Louis. “You always count the goals and the key saves but the way we play as a whole, I’m very happy.”
The Coyotes had no tired legs from their 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators the night before, scoring four goals in the first period.
Hayton skated the length of the ice and beat Montembeault to break the ice. Stralman added a second from the crease, tapping in Reilly Nash’s pass from behind Montembeault’s net.
The Canadiens cut their deficit to one goal in awkward fashion at 13:38 of the first period. The puck bounced off of two Coyotes players and finally made its way into their own net.
Alex Galcheyuk passed to Ritchie in the crease who tapped in Arizona’s third goal of the night, and his seventh of the season. Finally, Crouse ended Arizona’s productive first period by scoring on a breakaway and sending Montembeault to the bench.
Keller added a power-play marker in the second to make it a 5-1 game but Montreal made things interesting with just over one minute left in the period. Caufield scored twice in the span of eight seconds to bring the score to 5-3 ahead of the second intermission.
Schmaltz added the empty-netter with 4:18 to go in the third period, his 17th point in seven games, sealing Arizona’s 6-3 win.