With a couple of old familiar faces on both teams before the Christmas break, the Montreal Canadiens also got one of their own back in the lineup, as Victor Mete made his return.
The game got off to an absolutely wild start. Tomas Tatar played the early hero as the Winnipeg Jets flew in, and caused absolute chaos around an open net before Tatar swept the puck away from danger. Two of the aforementioned familiar faces, Nathan Beaulieu and Joel Armia, got the next shots as the start of the game may as well have been played to the Benny Hill theme. Neither team was able to hold onto the puck for sustained periods of time, yet they combined for 11 shots in the opening seven minutes of play.
Patrik Laine was the first player to put the puck in the net. Claude Julien challenged the play for offside, and as he has been so often was proven right. The goal was called off to mixed cheers and boos in a stadium unsurprisingly full of Habs fans.
Although it seemed that a penalty to Montreal was going to be called on the play leading up to the goal, nothing came of it until Ben Chiarot ended up in the net at the opposite end, and was called for fairly weak goaltender interference penalty. Carey Price was sharp early, but not enough in the last 40 seconds. Kyle Connor scored on a second effort into a wide-open net.
Montreal got a chance on the advantage of their own when Neal Pionk was sent to the box for slashing Armia. Tatar made them pay on a spectacular pass across the slot from Nick Suzuki on the advantage, as Montreal continues to astonish their fans by having a functional power play.
The chaos continued as Tatar beat Brossoit again, poking a tight rebound through his five-hole from point-blank range just over a minute later.
After trailing the Jets in shots by a significant margin for much of the first, the Habs picked up the edge as it came to an end.
The second period looked more like a hockey game and less like a series of averted disasters. At about the five-minute mark, Brendan Gallagher got a shot, made a terrific move on the rebound, and Phillip Danault put the puck over a pad-stacking Brossoit to extend Montreal’s lead.
The Canadiens continued to pounce on turnovers, and while they didn't score on them, they did take a commanding lead in shots, 23-18.
Shea Weber took a penalty defending against what would otherwise have been a breakaway. Suzuki made life interesting for the Jets on the penalty kill with a couple of chances of his own, and the Jets got called for six men on the ice trying towin the puck away from the rookie centreman.
Just moments into the four-on-four, Danault got his second of the night, winning the faceoff, getting the puck from a battling Gallagher, and beating Brossoit clean through the five-hole again.
The Jets pushed hard for a while, with about eight to go, but Montreal kept them to the outside and staved off danger. Price calmly stonewalled a Jets player who got in alone after a ref got in the way of a valiant defensive attempt from Weber.
Laine got a goal for real on a perfect shot with 3:42 to go, but the Canadiens re-established their three-goal lead when Suzuki pounced on a turnover from Beaulieu and sauced the puck to Domi. Both passed the puck through the crease and a sea of blue jerseys, and Domi came around the back of the net to score.
Winnipeg got another power play as Nate Thompson got sent to the box with less than 20 seconds to go in the period. The Habs headed to the room with a 5-2 lead, and shots 34-22 in their favour. There was some bad news, however: Armia missed most of the frame, and did not return the rest of the night.
The Habs made the early-third-period penalty kill interesting by sending out Poehling and Suzuki, and it nearly paid off as they got a two-on-one, but didn’t quite connect to score.
With just under 8:50 to go, Domi absolutely danced into the offensive zone, drew all three Jets players to him, and then fed the puck to a wide open Artturi Lehkonen on such a gimmie goal that even the Hockey Gods couldn't take it away from him.
Despite leading 6-2 and outshooting Winnipeg 44-25, the Habs kept playing through the second half of the third. That score didn't change, even with Price seeing more action in the final few minutes.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Habs had finished the western trip in style, outshooting Winnipeg 48-29, and finally coasting to an easy win after a couple of weeks of close results.
The Canadiens get a lengthy break for the holidays, returning to action on December 28 when they’ll be in Tampa Bay to start another three-game road trip. If you rather enjoyed seeing so many goals scored by Montreal Canadiens players, you should join us for our coverage of Cole Caufield and the other Habs prospects at the World Juniors, which get under way bright and early on Boxing Day.