Rabid Habs

Jet Lag Pt. II: The Missing Clinch

Jets' Eric O'Dell

“We know they like to play in this building. They come out with a lot of speed and a lot of intensity. They’re hungry for points right now. They’re in a pretty important playoff race. We know it’s not going to be easy. They’re going to play physical and they’re going to make it tough. For us, we just need to focus on the same things that we always do to have success and not worry about them too much. We need to focus on what we need to do to come away with two points.” – Brendan Gallagher

Almost two years since their visit to the MTS Centre that ended in a three to nothing win, the Montreal Canadiens would be back in Manitoba on Thursday night to face the Winnipeg Jets, hoping to clinch a playoff berth. Despite a three to two loss in overtime on Tuesday night to the Nashville Predators, the Canadiens became the first in the league to reach 100 points this season (thank you, Carey Price), as well as moving back into first place overall. While the Habs have struggled with generating goals, their incredible defense and their ability to remain competitive is what has brought them closer than ever to the playoffs, which will be something the Canadiens will want to consider keeping in control with Dustin Tokarski getting his 15th start in net (no offense, Dustin). On the other side of the ice, the Jets had their first loss in their last six games, losing five to two against the Vancouver Canucks. Winnipeg also holds the West’s second wild card spot (two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings), which means that the team will be fighting for the points they need to take control of their (possible) road to the playoffs. However, with a goaltender like Ondrej Pavelec (who has won his last five starts and posts a .966 save percentage) between the pipes, the Habs will want to take advantage of the full 60 minutes in order to make this last road trip game one to remember.

While the beginning of the first period wasn’t their strong point, the Canadiens were able to hit the halfway mark with 13 shots on net. There was a lot of great pressure and dominance coming off the Habs, giving a true playoff feel on the ice. However, with seven minutes and 27 second left of the period, Dustin Byfuglien was able to give the Jets their first goal of the night after an unappealing attempt to keep the puck out of the net from Dustin Tokarski. The Jets left the period with a one to nothing lead.

While the Habs were dominating in scoring chances, the “playoff” war on the ice got extremely heated as Mark Scheifele (assisted by Tyler Myers) raised the bar just six minutes and five seconds into the second period, as he gave the Jets a two to nothing lead. Luckily, Andrei Markov responded and put the Canadiens on the board just 41 seconds later (assisted by David Desharnais). The Canadiens did improve a lot from the first period, but unfortunately the Jets got their two goal lead back thanks to Jim Slater (assisted by Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak) with ten minutes left of the period, which was then followed by a Blake Wheeler goal with just 59 seconds left. The Jets left the second period with a four to one lead.

Both the Jets and the Canadiens were fighting to put pucks on net, but the Habs in particular were struggling to keep the puck deep in the Winnipeg zone as the Jets were keeping the pressure and aggression high. Luck changed for the Habs as Brendan Gallagher cut the lead in half with just eight minutes and 23 seconds, however the Jets responded 45 seconds later as Adam Lowry gave Winnipeg their three goal lead back. While the Montreal Canadiens fought in the last five minutes to put one more puck on the net, the Winnipeg Jets made it impossible for the Habs and won five to two.

Here are my thought’s about tonight’s game:

The Montreal Canadiens play the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre on Saturday at 7:00pm.

(Purchase your Canadiens tickets here. | Achetez vos billets des Canadiens ici.)

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @EarlxGreat.