Though Max Pacioretty was out of the line-up after recently receiving an emergency appendectomy, it was the Montreal Canadiens who took the spleen from the Winnipeg Jets along with the heart and lungs in their heartbreaking 4-3 victory tonight at the Centre Bell.
For the fourth straight game, the Jets conceded the first goal of the game -- before ultimately trailing 2-0 -- but this time they were unable to complete an improbable comeback, failing to pick up a point for the first time since losing to the Ottawa Senators on opening day.
Montreal wasted no time in putting Winnipeg on their heels, opening the scoring midway through the first period. Paul Postma was called for a ticky-tac interference penalty after a Travis Moen dump-in and the Habs capitalized as Rene Bourque uncorked his first of the year; a slapshot that beat Ondrej Pavelec cleanly over his glove hand.
Rookie Brendan Gallagher would later extend the Habs lead, dancing into Winnipeg's zone with impressive speed and snapping another shot high glove on Pavelec.
Yet, just like in games prior, the Jets would chip away at the deficit, starting with Blake Wheeler who responded with a powerplay marker late in the frame to make it 2-1 before intermission.
The Jets clawed their way back to even early in the second, when Nik Antropov got just enough on his one-timer to beat a helpless Carey Price just as a Winnipeg powerplay expired.
Then, for the first time in the game, Winnipeg took the lead, scoring their third unanswered -- a common theme for this 2013 squad -- with slightly under eight minutes in the period; an Olli Jokinen marker that made it 3-2.
Though, as we saw the other night against the New York Islanders, Montreal refused to go softly into the night. Erik Cole evened things yet again by knifing a shot over a sprawled out Ondrej Pavelec, tying the game three's heading into the third.
Montreal finally inserted the dagger on as their powerplay would click again in the third period. Tomas Plekanec reclaimed the lead for the bleu blanc et rouge at 4-3 with a slapshot that ricocheted off the skate of an unsuspecting Ron Hainsey before finding the back of the net.
Carey Price was able to stave off each of Winnipeg's eleven shots in the final period, collecting Montreal's fourth straight win in the process as the Habs have now vaulted the Jets in the Eastern Conference standings.
- Tonight's game was not pretty if you were a goaltender. Carey Price's .857 SV% was slightly better than the .846 posted by Ondrej Pavelec as both netminders struggled despite facing limited work.
- Here's an absolute monster stat: when Andrei Markov is in the line-up, the Habs are 316-230-29-65. Without him? 108-125-6-27. That's unreal. I guess it helps when he can single-handedly run a team's powerplay, as he added two assists tonight.
- Speaking of Montreal's powerplay, it continues to clip along at a fever pace. Rene Bouque unleashed an absolute buzz-bomb to open tonight's scoring and Tomas Plekanec would later add the game winning goal with Tobias Enstrom in the box. The Habs now have a PP goal in each of their first six games.
- Conversely, the Winnipeg Jets continue to struggle when playing at a man disadvantage. They have given up at least one powerplay goal in four of their opening six games, including another two this evening. Ooof baboof!
- Winnipeg also fell behind on the scoreboard early tonight, something which they had done in all three of their previous victories. Claude Noel called it a recipe for disaster. Tonight it truly was. The Jets will have to find a way to start stronger during the Floridian portion of their trip.
- Congrats to Nik Antropov who scored his 450th career point tonight, the bulk of which have been against the Montreal Canadiens (41).
- Since starting the season with a goose-egg, Olli Jokinen has been a point machine these past four periods (1G, 1A tonight). Not to mention, he has been an absolute stud on the offensive zone cycle. Winnipeg fans are extremely lucky to have this guy in polar blue.
- Evander Kane, too, has been a treat to watch. Blending his underrated physical presence with his offensive forecheck, he marked his fourth assist of the season on Jokinen's goal, now giving him seven points in six games.
- Brendan Gallagher and Alexander Galchenyuk looked so smooth together, combining for four points (1G, 3A) on the night. The duo currently has nine points on the season.
- Alexei Emelin finished the game with an impressive eight hits. The dude was known as a freight train during his KHL days and he certainly put that on display again tonight.