Thursday night the Montreal Canadiens faced a high-flying Winnipeg Jets (15-7-1) team that had won four of their last five, and five of their last six. Despite a valiant effort, and late game-tying goal, the home Canadiens faltered in overtime, 4-3, at the hands of Pierre-Luc Dubois.
It was their fourth straight loss in their blue Reverse Retro jerseys
Montreal (10-6-6) had finally won a game under interim head coach Dominique Ducharme in their last game, a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, and they were riding on that momentum heading in, hoping to string together a couple of wins together for the first time since February 2.
Ducharme also decided to give goaltender Carey Price the night off, and opted with Jake Allen between the pipes. He was tested very early, but was up for the task. Allen continued to put up a solid performance, despite the loss, making 22 saves.
Forward Josh Anderson didn’t dress for Montreal for the third straight game, but there was optimism as he was at the morning skate. He is currently second on the team with nine goals.
Midway through the first period, it was Jets forward Paul Stastny, who found the back of the net for his first of two in the evening, and with his sixth goal of the season on a redirected shot in front of Allen.
The lead doubled a few minutes later when, with just under five minutes left in the opening frame, Tyler Toffoli gave the puck to Winnipeg winger Mathieu Perreault who beat Allen for his fifth of the young campaign.
The Canadiens knew they had to regroup in the second, as they started the game a little flat, so the period started with a few offensive chances.
Nearing the midway point of the period, Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp took a tripping call, setting off a Montreal power play that had been three-for-seven since Alexandre Burrows took over.
Good cycling in and around Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck led to a goalmouth scramble towards the end of the man advantage with Brendan Gallagher finishing off the play with a wrist shot, good for his eighth of the season, and third power play marker. Gallagher has goals in back to back games.
The Canadiens were firing on all cylinders through the middle frame, outshooting them 13-5 in the period. Centre Phillip Danault, who has been stuck with a goose egg in the goal column all season, had a glorious chance, only to be denied by Hellebuyck in close.
However with just over three minutes left, after killing a Jonathan Drouin minor, Montreal got a fortuitous bounce from a Drouin, redirecting off a couple players, before ending behind the net. Toffoli was credited with the goal, his team-leading 14th of the season.
Early in the third, yet another Montreal miscue led to Stastny re-giving the Jets the lead 3-2 just three minutes into the final stanza. Seconds later, Allen was able to thank his lucky posts, as a Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post and kept the lead to just one.
A resilient Montreal team really wanted to equalize, after struggling to string wins and goals together as of late, but Hellebuyck displayed why he was named the Vezina Award winner last season, turning aside 33 shots in the win.
With some final pressure mounting, and Allen on the bench for the extra attacker, the Canadiens got a late equalizer when a Jeff Petry point shot was redirected by Drouin and then again by Corey Perry for his third of the season. With the assist on the goal, Drouin now tied last season’s point total with 15.
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair, with Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor getting the best chances, once on a breakaway and seconds later with a chance right in front, both times being stymied by Allen.
Canadiens’ winger Paul Byron also had a couple of chances, right on the doorstep, but Hellebuyck denied him as well both times.
But then, in the dying seconds, Pierre-Luc Dubois ended it with his fifth goal of the season, a shot just over the glove of Allen, and sending the Canadiens to the dressing room dropping the fifth of their last six games.
They will hope to rebound yet again against Winnipeg for a rematch on Saturday evening.