The Habs kicked off their second round series with the Winnipeg Jets who had swept the Edmonton Oilers and were well-rested. This series’ headliners were in the crease as Carey Price faced reigning Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck. For this first contest, Coach Ducharme opted for the same lineup that won Game 7. It was a good decision by the coach as the Habs skated to a game one 5-3 win following a strong offensive effort as the residue of emotion for the Habs proved too much for the rested but rusted Jets.
Despite this victory, the game was overshadowed by an ugly incident in the final moments of the game as an incredibly dirty hit by Scheifele saw Jake Evans taken off on a stretcher with seconds to play in the game. If the NHL awarded eight games to Nazem Kadri, Scheifele should be looking at a suspension in the double-digits.
The opening period kicked off with speed and intensity for both teams but the hitting was rather docile as speed prevented players from taking themselves out of the play with big hits.
3:30 into the game, a strong forecheck by Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Paul Byron caused the Jets to cough up the puck. This resulted in a Jeff Petry point shot that was actually a slap pass after a nice heads up play by Petry who saw Kotkaniemi headed toward the net that caught everyone but Kotkaniemi by surprise as the centre tipped it home to get the Habs on the board.
1:40 later, it was a strong pinch by Joel Edmundson who got the puck to Corey Perry who took a punch to the face from Logan Stanley to complete his pass to Eric Staal for an early 2-0 lead.
This was followed by a rather dumb penalty by Jake Evans who went looking for a hit that wasn’t there and ended up with an elbowing minor. Price made his first big save of the night on the penalty kill and the Habs killed the penalty though it cost the team’s early momentum.
The second half of the period started with Winnipeg losing a defenceman as Dylan DeMelo left the game and did not return. Montreal’s speed overwhelmed the Jets again and the Jets were already getting frustrated. Staal took a high-stick, Evans a cross-check, and once Brendan Gallagher was laid out in front of the Jets’ net, the Habs finally got a man advantage.
The power play was looking strong until Erik Gustafsson bobbled a puck and Adam Lowry took advantage to give himself a breakaway and beat Price five-hole.
The Jets attacked for the first time in the game, but the momentum was short-lived as Edmundson completed a great bank pass to Nick Suzuki who skated in on a 2-on-1 with Tyler Toffoli and outwaited everyone including Hellebuyck before tucking home a sweet goal to make it 3-1 with only 2:46 to play in the period.
A minute later, Paul Byron scored on a rebound, but the play clearly showed that Kotkaniemi had bumped Hellebuyck. The goal was disallowed as expected, but the surprise came when Kotkaniemi was assessed a two-minute minor for interference as the dump was rather inoffensive. Regardless, Price bailed out his team with his best save of the night on a cross-ice one-timer by Scheifele before Evans hit the post on a 2-on-1 with Byron to end the period.
The second period started with the Jets all over the Habs until the Staal line calmed things down with a really good cycle shift that completely broke down said momentum. Scheifele started to show signs of losing patience already as he started trying to get tough with Ben Chiarot after a rather inoffensive shot toward Price.
It was a fast period like the first, but the physicality was clearly ramping up despite scoring chances being rather absent from the play. Price had to make another strong save on a 2-on-1 as Mathieu Perreault had a good scoring chance denied. 8:26 into the period, Kotkaniemi finished his check on Ehlers and got called for roughing. It was a call that left everyone in the building asking why a penalty was called.
The Habs stepped up and killed the garbage penalty to start the second half of the game. Then the Suzuki line went to work as he and Cole Caufield got 2-on-1’s twice but couldn’t solve Hellebuyck. The Habs were really all over the Jets in this second half of the period as Hellebuyck had to make great stops on Byron, Joel Armia, and Josh Anderson to keep the Jets within striking distance. In the end, the shots had remained rather even through two periods, but the Jets inability to get through the Montreal defenders was the reason for the two-goal lead heading to the final period.
The third got underway with the same intensity and strong defensive efforts from both teams. This obviously boded well for the Habs who played well enough to keep the Jets out of their zone for the first six minutes of the period. Six minutes in the period, Price made his first big save as he got caught out of position but managed to stop a Kyle Connor slot chance.
But the Jets finally got momentum and started gaining the offensive zone with 13 minutes to play. At 10:36 to play, a cross-ice play was on Derek Forbort’s stick and he used Petry as a screen to fool Price and reduce the lead to 3-2.
On the next shift, Caufield flew in 1-on-1 against Josh Morrissey who took the rebound and batted it out of play for a delay of game penalty. A minute into the power play, Petry broke out and fired a stretch pass to Weber who got a breakaway. Hellebuyck made the save but Gallagher was there to put the rebound home and restore the two-goal lead.
The Habs went into a bit of a defensive shell with a two-goal lead, but this caused another Scheifele tantrum that this time went punished as he cross-checked Chiarot to the head with Chiarot already on the ice. It was very Wilson-esque.
The Habs wisely played two defencemen on the power play to prevent chances against. With only five minutes to go, the Habs were content to clear their end and defend their zone. The Jets pulled Hellebuyck with 2:30 to play, and Connor put home a one-time cross-ice pass with 1:42 to play.
This made things tense for the end, but with 57 seconds left, Toffoli iced the puck and Evans won the race and scored in the empty net. What was worse is that as Evans scored, Scheifele charged Evans. He never looked at the puck, charged, and deliberately elbowed to Evans’ head. Scheifele will absolutely be missing some games and it should be a lengthy one if the NHL has any integrity in their decision-making process.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Carey Price
Hard to select players in such a complete team effort. Price remains the standout as a few saves really bailed out his team and allowed them to push the pace up the ice with confidence to really baffle the Jets for most of the night. Not much to say that wasn’t said in the first series though. The Jets beat him three times and he still looked like he was completely in their heads at times.
Stats: 27 saves, 30 Shots, .900 save %, 3.00 GAA, 60:00 TOI
Second Star – Joel Edmundson
Edmundson started the game with two strong pinches in the offensive zone, the second of which was directly responsible for the Eric Staal goal. Then he did what he is not best known for when he delivered an awesome pass to Nick Suzuki which was directly responsible for that goal. After that, he stayed back, made the safe play and was a general pain to play against all night for the Jets. Edmundson is finding another gear in these playoffs, and it’s a gear that is needed by the Habs, a welcomed addition to a blue line that really doesn’t appear to be much fun to play against right now.
Stats: 2 assists, +1, 5 shots, 2 hits, 24:44 TOI
Third Star – Jesperi Kotkaniemi
Kotkaniemi has been stellar since the start of the playoffs (well, ok, Game 2). He is likely even better than in last year’s playoffs because as he gains experience, he is starting to understand when to lay the body and when to play the puck to create offence. He is physical plenty, yet in this game, it was a play on one of his first shifts where he passed on the hit and took advantage of a defender that was expecting a hit. The result? The game’s first goal. Add to this that he has magically found another gear defensively where he isn’t cheating to the offensive side of the puck during board battles, and you get a player that the coach can trust to play some shifts against the opposition’s best. Great game once again from the kid.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 Shot, 2 hits, 11:09 TOI
Honourable Mention – Joel Armia
I gave Eric Staal credit early in the series against Toronto. I praised Perry often throughout that series. That line was awesome again tonight and so it’s time to praise the third member of the line as I thought Armia had his best game of the playoffs so far. He was physical and protected the puck well. I can’t remember the last time the Habs had a line capable of simply hemming the opposition in their zone with the cycle for minutes on end the way this line does. What a treat to have as a fourth line.
Stats: 1 shot, 2 hits, 16:22 T.O.I.