The Jets beat the Canadiens today in game more thrilling than the 2-1 score would indicate. The pace in Winnipeg’s last few games has been quite uptempo, but today’s contest also had a bit of an edge to it.
CBC highlighted the continous battle between Hab Brendan Gallagher and Mark Stuart (and pretty much every other Jets defencemen) in front of Winnipeg’s net. Sticks were swinging before and after the whistle. The game ended with Danny Briere collapsing on Al Montoya’s head, drawing a massive post-game scrum that took the officials minutes to separate.
The animosity built up over time, however, as the game started with a quick pace, but both teams were hesitant to take chances. Winnipeg showed excellent puck support through the neutral zone, and it took the Habs almost five minutes to register their first shot. Eventually the Canadiens woke up, forcing Montoya to make some tough saves, and overtaking the Jets in shots 12-10 by the end of the first.
Montoya looked good early, but unfortunately for Montreal, Carey Price wasn’t as sharp as usual. Halfway through the second, Toby Enstrom carried the puck from his point all the way around the net, caught Price cheating, and squeaked the puck between the netminder’s glove and the post. The Jets controlled most of the period, but couldn’t leave with the lead. With a few minutes left, Plekanec chipped a nice backhand pass to Gionta, who ripped a shot over Montoya’s glove with a blink-and-you-missed-it release.
Both teams started the third with fire, but once again Price made a costly error for his team. Ladd beat Price to a loose puck in the corner, and before Price could get completely back in his net, Frolik finished off a nice pass from Ladd. Montreal drew a couple penalties, but neither team did much with their powerplays when they got them. The Jets masterfully ran out the clock as the Habs pressed late – in particular when the combination of Montoya, Bogosian, and Trouba kept Gallagher trapped offside in the Winnipeg zone with just a teensy bit of interference.
By winning yet another two points today, the Jets are only four away from tying for the final Wild Card playoff spot in the west. The playoffs didn’t look like a possibility this time last month, but the season is long, and Winnipeg’s chances are getting better with every win.
The Jets did a great job of clogging up the neutral zone – particularly in the first two periods. The Habs were forced to constantly cough up pucks often before they could even penetrate Winnipeg’s zone. The Jets were also able to take advantage of these turnovers, quickly transitioning right back in Montreal territory.
This makes two great starts for Al Montoya in a row. The back-up had to make quite a few strong saves, and looked calm through the numerous scrums that developed in front of him. Aided by a couple posts, Montoya’s performance today was another great example for the argument of him starting more games.
I’ll pin most of this on Olli Jokinen who was a standout in this category, but the Jets in general had a lot of trouble hitting the net today. There was a sequence halfway through the second period in which three times a Jet carried the puck down the right wing, got a clean look at the net, fired high and wide, then the whole team had to skate back and reset in their own end.
The powerplay continues to struggle with consistency. Counting today, the Jets are now 0-9 on the PP in their last four games. Winnipeg could do with more net presence with the man advantage, but they mostly don’t seem to know what each other are doing.
The Jets just keep building on their momentum, winning games convincingly even without Evander Kane. With only three games left before the Olympic break, the Jets need to finish strong as their schedule gets much tougher when the NHL resumes on February 25th.