Following an impressive win over the Rangers on Sunday, the Habs looked to make it two straight victories as they hosted the Jets on Tuesday. They got some secondary scoring for a change and Montreal was able to ride that to a 4-1 win.
With Joel Armia and Juraj Slafkovsky both landing on injured reserve as a result of injuries sustained on Sunday (Jake Evans also landed on IR on Monday), Martin St. Louis had a pair of changes to make. Then a third one was required when Jonathan Drouin was unable to play due to illness, leaving Montreal with just 11 available forwards. Recalls Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Rem Pitlick were inserted into the lineup while Mike Matheson returned from his injury on the back end, taking Drouin’s spot. The new-look lines were as follows:
Caufield – Suzuki – Ylonen
Hoffman – Dach – Anderson
Pezzetta – Dvorak – Dadonov
Harvey-Pinard – Pitlick
Edmundson – Barron
Harris – Savard
Matheson – Kovacevic
The game got off to a slow start with most of the play in the neutral zone for the first few minutes. Winnipeg got the first good chance of the game a little before the four-minute mark when they had a two-on-one. Blake Wheeler slid a pass over to Cole Perfetti but his shot went high and wide.
The Canadiens found their skating legs soon after with Kirby Dach getting a good chance a minute later. That sparked a flurry of dangerous attempts from Montreal including a pair from Jordan Harris but Connor Hellebuyck was sharp to keep it scoreless.
Just past the midway point, Pierre-Luc Dubois went off for a trip on Joel Edmundson, sending one of the worst power plays in the league against one of the top penalty kills. You can pretty much predict how things went from there; the Jets had more clear outs than the Habs had shots.
Things weren’t much better four minutes later when they got their second opportunity when Karson Kuhlman hooked former Jet Johnathan Kovacevic. This time, Winnipeg cleared the puck several more times than the Habs had shot attempts.
The good news through all of this is that the Canadiens were pretty sharp defensively, holding Winnipeg to few shots and even fewer scoring chances. They were, however, tested in the final minute. On a delayed penalty to Pitlick for a trip on Mark Scheifele, the Jets opted to play keep-away to set up for the full advantage to happen in the second. They moved the puck around well and got a couple of shots late but Samuel Montembeault kept it scoreless. Shots on goal in the opening frame were 10-6 for the Habs.
Winnipeg’s power play is considerably better than Montreal’s and it showed as they had control throughout the advantage. Halfway through it, Kyle Connor rang one off the post but less than 20 seconds later, he made up for it, one-timing a Josh Morrissey feed past Montembeault to open up the scoring.
A minute later, Morgan Barron held Harris behind the net, giving the Canadiens another power play. The Jets had the best-looking rush of that two-minute stretch while David Savard narrowly missed a tip play at the top of the create late in the power play. Yes, Savard at the front of the net on a power play. I guess when you’ve tried just about anything, that idea makes sense somehow. 20 seconds after the penalty, Connor found the post once more.
Two minutes later, both Pitlick and Evgenii Dadonov had good chances and like the Dach one in the first, that seemed to spark the home side. Eventually, the puck found its way to Justin Barron at the point and he sent a hard seam pass through to Dadonov with the winger one-timing it home to tie it up.
A little before the midway mark, the Habs took the lead. Dach sent a quick touch pass to Mike Hoffman who was rushing on his off-wing. He’s capable of getting precise shots off and he did on this attempt, beating Hellebuyck high-blocker side.
They weren’t done there. Four minutes later, off the draw, Christian Dvorak got a good shot from the slot. Hellebuyck made the stop but kicked the rebound right to Dadonov who had an open cage to bury his second of the night.
With just over three minutes left, Matheson took a hit but made a good play to send Montreal in on a two-on-one. Harvey-Pinard sent a pass to Pitlick but his shot went just wide. Two minutes later, Perfetti was in on another two-on-one. This time, his shot was on target but Montembeault made the stop.
Cole Caufield was called for tripping Morrissey with just over a minute to go in the frame. Once again, the Jets had strong control but they weren’t able to score before the buzzer sounded. The Habs held an 11-10 shot advantage in the period.
The back half of the carryover power play wasn’t as dangerous as Montreal did well to kill the rest of that penalty off. That proved to be critical as three minutes after that ended, Dach drove the net for a wrap-around. His backhander was stopped but the rebound went to Josh Anderson who was at the top of the crease to put it in.
At that point, the outcome seemed pretty safe and the Jets weren’t pushing too hard. Montembeault had to make one tough save near the midway point, going cross-crease to stop Nikolaj Ehlers. Overall though, considering Winnipeg was trailing, I know I was expecting more of a push from one of the top teams in the West.
The final half of the third period was largely uneventful with the Canadiens to sit back and play defence which they did well, especially compared to their disastrous play in their own end just a couple of weeks ago. There was a late fight between Arber Xhekaj and Adam Lowry that had been brewing for most of the night to cap the festivities as the Habs kicked off their season-long five-game homestand with a victory. Shots on goal in the final frame were 9-7 for Winnipeg.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Evgenii Dadonov – Honestly, I thought he was more noticeable a week ago with Evans and Armia but the goals weren’t coming for him then. They were in this one as Dadonov potted a pair with both of them notably coming from fairly close to the net. He has a long way to go to build up some trade value but he has been better lately and he was finally rewarded for his efforts.
Stats: 2 goals, +2 rating, 6 shots, 2 blocks, 15:19 TOI
2nd Star: Kirby Dach – Being put with a pair of inconsistent wingers isn’t great when you’re shifting back to a spot you haven’t played a lot at lately but it didn’t seem to matter for Dach. He directly set up a pair of goals and did well on his board battles. He still can’t win a faceoff but otherwise, it was a very strong night for him.
Stats: 2 assists, +2 rating, 2 shots, 2/9 faceoffs, 17:42 TOI
3rd Star: Samuel Montembeault – He wasn’t tested anywhere near as often as he was last week when the Canadiens were getting peppered with shots but he was sharp once again. He didn’t have much of a chance on Connor’s power play marker and he otherwise shut the door. They’ll happily take an outing like this from whoever’s in net in the second half of the season.
Stats: 24 saves on 25 shots, 1.00 GAA, .960 SV%
Honourable Mention: Justin Barron – The youngster won the Battle of the Barron’s as he faced off against his brother in the NHL for the first time. He made a couple of nice passes to help set up goals, especially the one from Dadonov to tie it up while he did relatively well defensively. That’s the type of performance that should keep him in the lineup although that will become a bit trickier (once they get 12 healthy forwards again) with Matheson back now.
Stats: 2 assists, +2 rating, 1 shot, 13:37 TOI