Fearless prediction: 11 Canadiens won’t make the scoresheet Thursday in Minnesota.
And neither will 11 Wild skaters.
Carey Price vs. Devan Dubnyk is likely to be more of a goaltenders’ duel than we saw in Winnipeg Tuesday night.
Al Montoya vs. Connor Hellebuyck/Michael Hutchinson was a shooting gallery at both ends of the MTS Centre.
Montoya stopped 23 of 27 shots and did a very creditable job, particularly when it was still a game and in the dying minutes, when Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice pulled Hutchinson for a sixth skater.
Hellebuyck was beaten on three of the seven shots he faced. The Jets’ starter was on the bench 14 minutes into the game.
Hutchinson was better – allowing four goals on 23 shots – but neither Winnipeg goaltender was up to the task of stopping a Canadiens attack that used team speed to skate circles around the hulking Jets, personified by Dustin Byfuglien.
Big Buff played almost 27 minutes and was plus-1 on the game, which is admirable in a 7-4 loss.
But the gaudy numbers were on the Canadiens’ side of the scoresheet:
• Phillip Danault, who opened the scoring 57 seconds in and added an end-to-end highlight goal, and Artturi Lehkonen, whose two early in the third period dashed any hope of a home-team comeback, notched the first two-goal games of their careers.
Danault continues to buttress his case for second-line centre duties when Alex Galchenyuk returns. Lehkonen, after a slow start, plays smart 200-foot hockey every game. And he’s on target for 20 goals.
• Tomas Plekanec scored for the second game in a row. He looks livelier playing with Lehkonen and Paul Byron.
• First defence pairing Shea Weber and Alexei Emelin were each plus-3.
• The second pairing, Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu, were on for five first-period goals – three by the CH – and finished at plus-1 each. They continue to play big minutes: 24:39 for Beaulieu, 23:46 for Petry.
• Sven Andrighetto, who has bounced between Montreal and St. John’s, got his first NHL goal and looked good on a line with wily vets Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn.
Louie DeBrusk, an excellent analyst on the Sportsnet telecast, praised the Canadiens as “a quick team that’s really given the Jets fits tonight.”
Speed, in this case, killed.
The Jets outhit the Canadiens 26-7, but that was mostly a reflection of which team had the puck most of the time.
Winnipeg fought back from an early 2-0 deficit. But the Canadiens didn’t let the home team develop any momentum.
An excellent win lifted the Canadiens nine points up in the Atlantic Division – with two games in hand on Boston, the closest pursuer.
They are 11-6-4 on the road.
But Minnesota will be a tougher visit than Winnipeg.
• • •
Comment on the Liveblog from slapshot777:
I know we give it to MT on here but this year he deserves all the praise for the way this team has played through all the injuries and you can see the Habs becoming more of this puck possession team that was talked about.
Just watching the Sharks/Flames game and Sharks head coach DeBoers or one of his assistants just had a player Mueller tossed from the game for filling out an incorrect lineup.
So other coaches mess up as well.
And from PK:
A year is a long time, no?
I admit that MB and MT have done a good job this season.
Thanks to the AHL players, being developed under MB’s system, the Habs have not folded like a cheap accordion.
Injuries yes, but look at Big Mac, Danault, Lehkonen, Carr, Emelin, Beaulieu.
Oh, and don’t forget the oft-maligned Andrighetto.
Danault brought in for a couple of popular players, who had no significant future with the Habs. Great move by MB.
So, what are the top four centers, once all the players are back?
Timo: where do we put your man, DD?