The Montreal Canadiens came into Edmonton looking to sweep their three-game Western Canada swing before the holidays but instead it was the Oilers continuing their hot streak, beating the Canadiens 4-1 at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
Montreal (16-16-4) came into the game having beaten Vancouver 7-5 back on Tuesday and 3-2 Friday night in Calgary, but their offensive power hit a standstill when they faced Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers.
Today’s contest featured Talbot, but in a rare appearance, Antti Niemi made just his second start for Montreal as Carey Price got the night off after starting 12 straight. For Niemi, it was his first start since November 22 when he made 31 saves in a shootout loss to Nashville. Already on his third team this season, the Finn has yet to record a win this season but on this night, he would be the last to blame for the loss.
Niemi was great all night, making key saves after Montreal was a turnover machine throughout most of the game.
The Oilers (17-17-2) got a pair of quick goals just over two minutes in the first period when Ryan Strome connected on his seventh followed by the captain and reigning Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid potted his 14th in what would eventually be the game winner. His 14 goals are tied with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the team lead.
After longtime Habs nemesis Milan Lucic scored a powerplay goal to increase the Oilers lead to three, it seemed as the Canadiens were out of it. That’s when Andrew Shaw tipped a Joe Morrow point shot that just trickled past Talbot for his ninth on the season, and fourth on the man advantage. In the last four road games, Montreal has been 5/11 on the powerplay.
It was challenged by the Oilers for goaltender interference, but the goal eventually stood.
That would be the only one that eluded Talbot however as he cruised with 30 saves en route to his seventh win a row, and 14 on the season.
Forward Jujhar Khaira who had two goals in their last meeting, scored into an empty netter late in the third on a feed from Leon Draisaitl, who had three helpers on the night.
Montreal now gets a mini Christmas break with their families and they can regroup before their next game, on Wednesday when they travel to Raleigh for a date with the Hurricanes. A break may do the Canadiens good as they need a strong post-Holiday push to get back into the playoff picture.