Montreal Canadiens: A Crucial Win in Carey Price’s 700th Game

Mar 15, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Tyler Toffoli Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 15, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Tyler Toffoli Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens travelled for a short, two-game series against the Winnipeg Jets looking snap their losing streak and get back into the win column. The defensive pairing saw significant changes due to Ben Chiarot’s absence, as did the first line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi replacing Nick Suzuki in between Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson. The game would also mark Carey Price’s 700th game in the NHL and a Montreal Canadiens sweater.

First Period: One Goal, One Issue

It would not be long until head coach Dominique Ducharme reaped the benefits of his new first line. Early in the first period, Josh Anderson dove to keep the puck offensive zone which allowed for Jonathan Drouin pick it up and create a 2-on-0 against the goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. While he lost the opportunity to shoot, a smart pass to his left allowed Jesperi Kotkaniemi to tap it in. This would likewise be the lone goal of the first twenty minutes. The most glaring issue for the Montreal Canadiens was in their own zone. Circumstances aside as the defensive new pairings did make sense, the club as a while struggles to break the puck out of their own zone. While this is a strength of healthy scratch Victor Mete, he doesn’t offer much else in terms of earning a spot in the lineup. Moving forward, general manager Marc Bergevin should be looking to reinforce his blue line via trade or call-up.

Second Period: Capitalizing Once More on the Man Advantage

Whilst the powerplay that carried over from the first period did not lead to a goal, the Montreal Canadiens would later capitalize on a penalty drawn by Jonathan Drouin. Josh Anderson would be the one to do so by tallying his 11th goal of the season with the helpers coming from Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli. While Anderson and Suzuki have been separated at even strength, it is by no means due to a lack of chemistry as the two continue to show why they have found success throughout the season. There is no doubt the Drouin-Kotkaniemi-Anderson played well at even strength; however, having Anderson and Suzuki on the powerplay allows for two balanced units, as opposed to just relying on the Kotkaniemi unit. The Winnipeg Jets would finally get on the board on their respective powerplay with a goal from Kyle Connor who was assisted by Josh Morissey and Paul Stastny. Late into the second period, a turnover by Neal Pionk that was forced by Brendan Gallagher created a 3-on-0 that allowed for Tyler Toffoli to deke out Connor Hellebuyck. In what was likely the nicest goal scored by the Montreal Canadiens so far this year, the team would head into third period up by a score of 3-1.

Third Period: Carey Price’s 700th Game is Another Vintage Performance

The Winnipeg Jets would tighten the Canadiens’ lead by once more capitalizing on the man advantage. The goal once again came from forward Kyle Connor, an already solid player who appears to have an extra jump to his game when playing against the Canadiens. The Montreal Canadiens spent the third period facing an onslaught of shots from the Winnipeg whilst hanging on to their 3-2 lead. Leaning heavily on Carey Price late in the final stretch, the Canadiens goaltender ensured the Winnipeg Jets would not tie up to the game and push for extra time. As we have seen countless times throughout the season, the Canadiens have a dismal record when playing past regulation time and should be avoided until those issues are rectified. With Connor Hellebuyck pulled to get the extra man out on the ice, Tyler Toffoli was able to record his second goal of the night (third point) and 16th of the season. Joel Edmunson received the lone assist on the goal. It is not secret that goaltender Carey Price has struggled throughout the season with those issues eventually resulting in the firing of long-time goaltending coach Stephane Waite. However, Price’s last six starts have been reminiscent one of the numbers we have been familiar with throughout goaltender’s career. In his last six starts, Carey Price has gone 4-1-1 to go alongside with a .956 sv%. While we have only just reached the halfway point of the season and many would like to see if this level of play can be maintained, Price’s recent performances should be an encouraging sign for all Montreal Canadiens fans.

Looking Ahead

Under normal circumstances, these two teams would only play against each other twice a year. However, in their past few matchups, we have seen tempers rising on both sides in each game played.

Next. Poehling's great play deserving of another NHL chance. dark

It will be interesting to see if anything culminates of that when the Canadiens and Jets face off once more on Wednesday at 9:00pm EST.