The Montreal Canadiens appeared to have gotten back on track With a four game point streak prior to their visit to Calgary. Unfortunately for them, the Flames had other designs, and took the Canadiens down twice in regulation, sending them back to the drawing board.
If there was an ideal team to face coming off those losses, it would have to be the Winnipeg Jets. Though Montreal’s record against them hasn’t been exemplary, they did manage to take a 7-1 rout in their last matchup. It certainly can’t be expected to have that result with regularity, but a win by any means would go a long way for this team.
Now, it definitely didn’t look good for the first four-plus minutes. The Habs looked lost in their own zone, and once they did get the puck off the stick of a Jets player, they were mostly content to flip the puck out and try to regroup. Not the start the Tricolore needed, to say the least.
But they would somehow strike first. Jesperi Kotkaniemi managed to create a turnover at the offensive blue line, and a diving Josh Anderson tipped the puck to Jonathan Drouin to create a golden scoring chance. Drouin deferred back to Kotkaniemi and allowed him to finish the play he started.
The Jets would get a power play chance not long thereafter, with Nick Suzuki taking a holding call. Surprisingly, but importantly, the best defensive zone effort for the Canadiens in the period came during that kill, and they were able to keep one of the deadlier power plays in the league at bay.
To start the second period, it was the Canadiens turn on the power play, as Paul Stastny took a tripping penalty in the dying seconds of the third. Though there were some quality scoring chances generated, Connor Hellebuyck stood tall and kept the deficit at one for his team.
They would be granted a second chance later in the frame, one that arguably should have been a penalty shot after Drouin was hooked on a breakaway. Josh Anderson managed to settle a rebound all alone beside the net, and a recovering Hellebuyck was unable to get square to the shot as the former made it 2-0 Habs.
Of course, the Jets would get their own man-advantage near the midway point, and they too would find success. Kyle Connor managed to beat Carey Price through some significant screening, and just like that it was 2-1.
The Canadiens would eventually get the Penalty shot they perhaps should have had earlier in the period, this time with Brendan Gallagher being fouled on a breakaway. He went blocker, and unfortunately for him that happens to be Hellebuyck’s strong side.
At least getting the attempt seem to energize the Habs, as they began playing noticeably better. It ultimately led to what was essentially a three-on-zero for them on Hellebuyck, and Tyler Toffoli decided to just keep the puck for himself and make it 3-1 heading into the third.
As mentioned, however, the Jets have a very good power play. Joel Edmundson would take a tripping penalty less than five minutes into the third, and it was yet again Kyle Connor drawing the Jets back within one with over 14 minutes left on the clock.
It was a rather tense 14 minutes, with a lot of back and forth action, but the Canadiens would get their two points closed by a Toffoli empty net goal. Not a perfect performance by any stretch, but a very important win of the regulation variety for Montreal.
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi was absolutely on last night. In addition to scoring the opening goal, he looked like the most annoying player the Jets have ever had the displeasure of meeting. He was all over the ice, and would come out of nowhere at times to steal the puck and turn it into an opportunity for his team. Really impressive game from him again.
- Carey Price was also absolutely on last night. The defensive lapses by the Canadiens were numerous, so the Jets had a lot of quality scoring chances. The Jets controlled 53.19% of scoring chances and 54.55% of high-danger chances, so the Canadiens at least owe a large part of this win to their goaltender. He’s been heating up as of late, and they’ll hope he can continue to provide goaltending like this regularly.
- Not much more can be said about Tyler Toffoli at this point. Bergevin’s best offseason acquisition is arguably the best addition for any team across the league. It has been some time since the Canadiens had a player sniffing the NHL scoring lead, and he’s on a rather bargain contract given his production level wearing the Tricolore.
- Dominic Ducharme has some work to do when it comes to the breakout. A big problem for the Habs was getting the puck near the blue line only to be turned around and then hemmed in their zone for a bit, often ending in an icing out of desperation. Once they can get past the forecheckers they’re usually dangerous heading up ice, but getting past said forecheck was a major struggle last night.
- While we’re on coaching, you have to like what Alex Burrows has done with the power play. That unit has been much better since he came on board, and it’s particularly important in a high-scoring division like the North. Ducharme must be quite happy with the work Burrows is doing on that front.