The good news was that for the first time this week, the Montreal Canadiens didn’t give up a goal within the first minute. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else when it came to good news, as the offense was barely visible as they dropped a 5-0 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night at the Bell Centre. The shutout loss was also the very first for the Jets in their history against Montreal.
The loss drops the Canadiens’ record to 17-12-9, spoiling their attempt to gain valuable points in the playoff race after having a 10-day break from March 20-30, and they’ve now lost three in a row.
Jake Allen, starting his third straight game this week, had his record with Montreal fall to 5-6-4 after making 20 saves in his team’s loss. For his part, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 19 saves for his second shutout of the season (first since March 22), and first ever versus the Canadiens in a career that started back in 2015-16.
One lineup change was made between the two teams, as Montreal opted to replace defenseman Victor Mete with Otto Leskinen. The 24-year-old Finn had played five games with Montreal last season, and was leading the Laval Rocket in scoring among blue-liners thus far this season. He finished the night with one hit in 16:21 of ice time.
The first period didn’t see many opportunities for either side. The strongest chance probably would have to go Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin. He has been mired in a goalless drought that has now extended to 20 games; and only scored one goal in the last 31. After the first period, the visiting Jets had only mustered five shots on net, their lowest thus far this season.
The Jets’ offence picked up at the midpoint of the second when, after Allen poked the puck away from Pierre-Luc Dubois, Jeff Petry slung it right to Paul Stastny, who managed a five-hole goal on a recovering Allen for his 12th of the season, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Late in the period, the Jets doubled their lead on a power-play, when forward Nikolaj Ehlers wired a wrist shot from the point which was screened by Mathieu Perreault. Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme and company contested the goal on a goaltender interference basis, but the call went Winnipeg’s way, as did much of the rest of the night.
Winnipeg solidified their stranglehold in the last minute of the period when Derek Forbort scored his second goal of the season, going bar-down, and getting his first since February 2. For a team that’s loaded on offence from their balanced forward attack, of their now 134 goals in the 2020-21 season, they’ve only gotten nine goals from their back end.
The Canadiens were up for a tough test entering the final period, with their record this season after trailing after two periods an abysmal 2-8-2. They knew more shots had to be fired at Hellebuyck, but he wasn’t really tested, turning aside the five he faced. The win gave the 2019-20 Vezina winner his 20th of the season.
The Jets added another couple of goals in the final frame when forward Andrew Copp and Perreault added to their team’s lead. Perreault’s goal came after he had stripped Canadiens captain Shea Weber of the puck right in front of Allen and made no mistake shooting it up high for his eighth of the year.
Hostilities did boil over midway through the frame, when Jake Evans and Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey dropped the gloves. The fight was the first for Evans in his NHL career.
The Canadiens still have a six-point cushion for their fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division, but these six points they contested over the past week were valuable ones they lost.
The trade deadline comes on Monday, and there are a lot of questions that have plagued Habs fans, wondering who possibly played their last game in the bleu, blanc, et rouge, if general manager Marc Bergevin will or won’t pull any major or minor moves. It will be a very tense next 48 hours for the Canadiens management, as well as the rest of the league.
The Canadiens’ next game will be on Monday night as they will host the Toronto Maple Leafs, who came away with a 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Although the Canadiens have had a tough go against Toronto this season in terms of results, the games have always been filled with excitement, as the age-old rivalry is still very much alive.