What! A! Game! The 7-3-2 Jets represented a stiff test for the fragile Canadiens. In a true show of character, the Habs responded and played their most complete 60-minute effort of the season on Saturday night. They dominated the bigger and stronger Jets for most of the game, earning a 5-4 overtime victory in the process. This game was fast, had big hits, nice saves, and nice plays/goals. Ultimately, they took advantage of some generous rebounds by Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck while overcoming Al Montoya’s rebound control. Having said this, it’s worth noting that both goaltenders played quite well on this night.
The opening period looked like many games this season. Montreal started strong and created numerous chances only to fail in the most important department which is finishing the play and scoring. After failing on their first power play, Montreal would give up a man advantage to Winnipeg on a Michael McCarron penalty. The Jets weren’t as generous as Patrik Laine quickly scored from the top of the slot, taking advantage of a good shooting location. While they were quickly killing the penalty, Phillip Danault chose to keep his zone coverage as opposed to following one of the most skilled snipers in the league through the slot. Perhaps this is how the Habs want to play it, but it appeared like a questionable decision on the replay. The goal gave Winnipeg a spark as they controlled the play in the Montreal zone for a few minutes following the goal.
The Habs hung on and slowly got back into their groove and evened the chances in the process. With under a minute to play in the period, Dmitry Kulikov was sent to the box for cross-checking. Ten seconds later, Max Pacioretty won a puck battle and found Jonathan Drouin. Drouin walked the blueline, found a lane, and put the puck on net for Andrew Shaw to tip it home and tie the game before the period expired.
Full marks go to the Montreal coaching staff who found a weakness in coverage as Montreal came out in the second period and were noticeably attacking Winnipeg through the centre of the ice. This created many chances and kept Winnipeg hemmed into their zone for minutes at a time. With Winnipeg on a rare rush into the Montreal end, Laine took an undisciplined offensive zone penalty and for the second time of the night, the Habs produced on the man-advantage. Shea Weber released his bomb from the point, and Shaw was all over the rebound, putting home the garbage for the lead.
After this goal, the pace really picked up as both Montoya and Hellebuyck were forced to make a series of excellent stops to keep the score as it was. Montreal would be awarded a third power play and looked incredibly dangerous. This created momentum for the Habs who continued to play in the offensive zone for most of the period. A fourth man advantage killed this momentum and gave the Jets a sliver of hope. As Winnipeg got some offensive zone time, Victor Mete played a faceoff weakly and the puck ended up to Brandon Tanev who found Andrew Copp in front who tied the game with Montoya looking the other way. With two periods expired and an even score, many fans of the bleu-blanc-rouge had to be wondering if this was going to end up being another loss where the Habs deserved better.
The prophecy looked promising to start the third period as the Habs were completely flat-footed. It would cost them quickly as Jeff Petry was called for closing his hand on the puck. On the ensuing PP, Nikolaj Ehlers fired home an absolute rocket that required replay to confirm it had entered the net. The Jets hemmed the Habs into their zone immediately after which forced Paul Byron to take a slashing penalty. The man advantage would make Montreal pay again as Blake Wheeler turned on the jets as Jordie Benn and Petry bumped into each other allowing Wheeler to cut across and tuck one under Montoya. This was after Ehlers did the same thing but was stoned by Montoya.
Down two goals, the Habs would show some character on this night and fight back. Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher went to work down low in the Winnipeg zone. After many won battles for pucks, Gallagher managed to find Tomas Plekanec in the slot and he made no mistake in returning the game to a one-goal affair. Montreal would really apply some intense pressure and finally got rewarded for it. After Shaw and Danault won numerous puck battles, Petry made up for the slip on the fourth Winnipeg goal and sniped one in to tie the game back up. The Habs were all over the Jets zone over the last four minutes after the equalizer, but couldn’t win it in regulation.
The overtime was every bit as entertaining as the game as both goaltenders needed to shine to keep it going. With Alex Galchenyuk on the puck deep in the zone, Tyler Myers came in and inexplicably cross-checked him in the back-sending Montreal on a 4-on-3 power play. The Habs got a few good looks over the two minutes. As the penalty was expiring, Pacioretty likely should have been sent to the box for interference. He wasn’t and the Habs took advantage as Weber sent the puck down to Galchenyuk who fed Pacioretty in front of the net who buried it to end the game.
HW 3 Stars
1st Star – Andrew Shaw
Anyone still complaining about this trade (I’m still not a fan of the contract) needs to watch more games since Claude Julien has been hired. Shaw has turned into the player all fans of the team were hoping to see last season. He plays with a heart that rivals that of Brendan Gallagher, with a bit more size on his side. With both Shaw and Gallagher getting things going makes the Habs a tough team to play against as teams end up playing most of the game in their own zone, much like Winnipeg on this night. Two goals for Shaw were scored in front of the net, a place where some more skilled players are often more selective in their adventures to these areas. If Shaw, Danault, Lehkonen, and Gallagher continue to pay the price in those zones, this team will continue to find success.
Stats: 2 goals, 0 (+/-), 0 hits, 4 shots, 17:41 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
See everything I just said about Shaw, with perhaps a bit more consistency and a bit more attitude after the whistle. Gallagher is rightfully known as the heart of this team, and it’s starting to influence other players in the dressing room. Gallagher had a big night in the losing effort in Minnesota and continued to be his usual pest against Winnipeg. Shaw had better results on this night, but Gallagher’s effort was still on par.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 1 hit, 2 shots, 21:56 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Shea Weber
Weber was every bit of the “Man Mountain” on this night. The Jets apparently didn’t get the memo and allowed his rocket to be unleashed way too many times on this night. In addition to the multiple scoring chances, Weber was active in supporting the rest of the offence, was sound defensively, and played a ridiculous number of minutes as he was playing with any of Benn, Mete, or Morrow as partners in the third period.
Stats: 2 assists, -1, 0 hits, 6 shots, 29:08 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Alex Galchenyuk
This game was Galchenyuk’s best of the season. He looked dangerous all night long. I’m not claiming his game was perfect, but he didn’t lose quite as many puck battles and definitely didn’t commit as many giveaways. Here’s hoping the coaching staff makes sure he attempts to work this hard every night. A step in the right direction. I think they will as they showed confidence in him on the overtime power play, which worked out as Galchenyuk had the primary assist on Pacioretty’s game-winner.
Stats: 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 0 hits, 5 shots, 18:43 T.O.I.