After two straight losses, the Habs were back in action on Saturday night hoping to end their week on a winning note against Winnipeg. Instead, they couldn’t get anything going offensively and folded in the second half of the game, ultimately falling 5-0.
Dominique Ducharme opted to make one lineup change for this game and it wasn’t particularly surprising. After Victor Mete was benched for the entire third period on Thursday, it was a pretty clear sign that he wouldn’t play in this one. As a result, Otto Leskinen was promoted from the taxi squad to make his 2020-21 debut. The lines were also changed around as Tyler Toffoli was moved alongside Corey Perry and Nick Suzuki while Josh Anderson was with Jonathan Drouin and Eric Staal.
After coughing up a goal in the first minute of the last two games, the Habs needed to simply survive the first minute. They only partially achieved that objective as Joel Edmundson took a hooking call seconds in. However, that was quickly negated when Jake Evans drew a hold on Paul Stastny after he directed a Paul Byron pass just wide of the goal.
Late in Montreal’s abbreviated advantage, Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s shot attempt hit Perry in the knee. The Canadiens retained possession and the puck worked its way back to Kotkaniemi. This time, he fed the puck to Perry who attempted the jam play but couldn’t beat Connor Hellebuyck.
Two minutes after the power play ended, the Kotkaniemi line had another chance. The forwards had a nice passing play but Tomas Tatar put it just over the net.
Winnipeg then had their best chance of the period at the 8:30 mark when Nikolaj Ehlers had a two-on-one with Paul Stastny but Ehlers’ pass went of Stastny’s skate went wide. A minute later, the Habs had a two-on-one of their own. Drouin tried to pass it over to Perry but it was broken up. However, the puck wound up in the crease where Drouin had an open net but was stopped.
At the 11:04 mark, Derek Forbort had a weak wrister that Jake Allen easily made the save on. That’s worth mentioning as it was Winnipeg’s first shot of the game. They didn’t generate much after that with their only notable look came from the fourth line with three minutes to go when Jansen Harkins was stopped off the rush with Trevor Lewis getting time to walk in seconds later but Allen was up to the taxi. Following Drouin’s attempt just before the midway mark, Montreal didn’t manage a shot in the second half of the period but still held a 6-5 lead in shots after 20 minutes.
The second period started the same way the first did with a first-minute penalty, this time from Shea Weber. Byron and Evans once again had a good shorthanded chance but Byron couldn’t get a shot off. Not long after Winnipeg’s power play, the Habs had one of their own when Pierre-Luc Dubois was called for holding but they didn’t get much in the way of offence.
Just past the 6:30 mark, a good fourth line shift led to a good opportunity on Byron’s backhand but he missed the net. 30 seconds later, Allen got a piece of Kyle Connor’s shot before it rang off the crossbar and then stopped Tucker Poolman on the rebound.
Just before the midway point, Evans fanned on a slot attempt off a perfect Byron set up and it proved costly. Leskinen’s propensity for long shifts came back to bite him; he was forced to make a desperate rush to the bench, giving Dubois a break. Allen rushed out and dove to poke the puck away and sent it right to Jeff Petry. Unfortunately, Petry’s trend of egregious giveaways continued as he handed the puck to Stastny who was able to put it past Allen as he was scrambling to get back into the net.
Montreal got another power play later in the frame when Stastny was called for hooking once again. The Habs didn’t generate much until late in the man advantage when they had a couple of chances. They didn’t score and to make matters worse, Drouin took a hooking penalty just after the advantage ended. That was followed up by offsetting cross-checking minors to Weber and Stastny soon after.
Andrew Copp had a good chance in the slot just after those calls but Allen made the stop. However, off the ensuing draw, the puck made its way to Ehlers at the point. His wrister made it through Allen to make it 2-0. Mathieu Perreault bumped into Allen’s glove while trying to screen him, resulting in some interference. Montreal challenged but as Allen’s glove was outside the crease, the officials ruled in Winnipeg’s favour, counting the goal and sending them right back to the power play.
The penalty kill did a nice job killing that one but the Habs got sloppy in their own end right after. Connor was stopped in tight and seconds later, Derek Forbort scored with a weak shot from a terrible angle that hit Allen to go in. It was one that he needed to stop and all of a sudden, a two-goal deficit became three with the Jets also holding the 13-8 shot advantage in the period.
The Habs managed to survive the first minute of the third without taking a penalty. That was about the highlight of the period. Seconds later, Kulak fell off a faceoff, sending Stastny in on a breakaway but Allen made the stop.
Artturi Lehkonen had a trio of decent looks in the early going of the period but couldn’t get any of them past Hellebuyck. On the last of those, Perry ran into Hellebuyck, earning a slash from the goalie for his troubles. During the ensuing scrum, Perry then picked up a 10-minute misconduct, a sign of things to come.
On the next whistle, Edmundson tried to start a fight with Logan Stanley but the Winnipeg blueliner didn’t oblige (nor did he really need to). That gave the Jets a power play and they needed all of seven seconds to score on it with Copp capitalizing off a tic-tac-toe play with Ehlers and Perreault.
Evans then let his frustrations show as he dropped the gloves with Josh Morrissey on the next shift as Montreal’s frustration level was high and the effort level was low.
Just past the midway mark, Weber had a horrendous giveaway to Perreault right in the slot and he quickly snapped it past Allen who had no chance, capping the scoring for Winnipeg in Montreal’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game. The Jets had a two-on-one late in the game with Dubois and Ehlers but Dubois made the wrong decision to pass and they never got a shot off. I don’t think they were particularly upset about that either. The final buzzer mercifully sounded with Hellebuyck picking up a 19-save shutout for Winnipeg’s first shutout in Montreal in franchise history while Allen kicked away 20 of 25 attempts from the Jets for his lowest full-game save percentage in more than two years.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Paul Byron – Not a lot of Habs had energy in this one but he did. Byron did a nice job on the penalty kill and set up some other chances. Nothing went in but he used his speed effectively and not many other Habs did anything effectively. And I write this despite the fourth line being hemmed in their own zone for long stretches of the game at even strength.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 1 shot, 2 hits, 14:05 TOI
2nd Star: Phillip Danault – Once again, his line was Montreal’s best in terms of possession and he had a couple of decent looks offensively. That’s enough to qualify for a nod in this game.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 2 shots, 5/13 faceoffs, 17:51 TOI
3rd Star: Corey Perry – He drove the net hard and had a couple of good looks in close. I could have done without the needless misconduct in the third period but he was okay the rest of the game.
Stats: 0 points, 10 PIMS, 3 shots, 3 hits, 11:21 TOI
Honourable Mention: Victor Mete – He was Montreal’s best defenceman in this game. And yes, I’m aware he didn’t play. That’s how bad the defence was at times. Otto Leskinen had a great opportunity to make a case for playing time and perhaps move ahead of Mete on the depth chart. He failed to do so, potentially paving the way for Mete to return on Monday.