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Jake Evans was Montreal’s unlikely saviour in securing a playoff berth

Montreal made the playoffs on the back of Herculean effort from their rookie centre.

Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens again sat about as close to the finish line as a team can get without clinching a playoff spot. All they needed was a single point against Edmonton. They got that point, in a game where every single piece they relied on throughout the season seemed to falter when the Habs were down and seemingly out of the game.

But on multiple occasions, it was Jake Evans going full Greg Jennings and putting the team on his back.

Evans was the one who opened the scoring, a beautiful play where he showcased his speed and edge work to put Darnell Nurse in a spin cycle. With Nurse down and out, Evans pulled back and rifled a shot bardown off the crossbar and in to put Montreal up by a goal early on.

In what was a trend all night, Evans was the focal point of the goals on the ice, using his speed to push back the Oilers defence, and creating space for his linemates Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen. Look no further than the line’s second goal of the night, when he lifted the stick of a defender to allow Byron to score on a play he had helped to set up.

Perhaps most impressively is that Evans and his line were given the assignment of matching Connor McDavid all night, and they did more than limit his impact. Evans especially put together a strong showing, controlling 59.3% of shot attempts against McDavid at five-on-five. He was also on the ice for (and directly responsible for) three goals against the NHL’s biggest star.

Montreal needed someone — anyone — to step up and push the team over the finish line and into the post-season. Evans happened to be that guy. The 2014 207th overall pick stepped up in what had to be the biggest game of the Canadiens’ season. He’s earned a spot in the starting playoff lineup, veteran assets be damned. We saw the early arrival of Evans in the bubble last year, and we’re seeing his next chapter unfold right now.