The Montreal Canadiens are tough to beat when they play to their strengths — speed and skill.
Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice acknowledged those assets Monday after his team fell 4-2 to the visiting Canadiens.
The Jets had outshot the Canadiens 36-31 and outhit them 33-22, but Montreal forced three key turnovers that turned into goals.
“They don’t pressure with a whole lot of physicality; they pressure with some quickness and they knock an awful lot of pucks down,” Maurice said. “I thought part of that is hand skills, kind of players they have. But we’ve got to do more with the pucks we had on our sticks that ended up in our net.”
Carey Price made 34 saves in his 700th game and Tyler Toffoli had two goals and an assist for the Canadiens, who were coming off a pair of losses in Calgary. Josh Anderson added a goal and an assist, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored once.
“I thought we competed tonight,” Anderson said. “A full effort from everybody was there and it was a huge two points. We needed that to get back on track, and we’ve just got to follow up next game.”
Jonathan Drouin, who drew the first assist on Kotkaniemi’s goal to open the scoring, said the Canadiens are at their best when they focus on the basics: “We wanted to keep things simple, especially after our last two games in Calgary.”
“We didn’t want to complicate things and create turnovers,” added the 25-year-old left winger. “We put pucks on net. I think we played a good game tonight against a team with good offense. We had to limit our turnovers, and I think we did a good job in that aspect of the game.”
The two teams are back at it Wednesday to complete a two-game set. It will be the sixth time they have played each other in the past three weeks, with the Jets winning once in regulation and twice in overtime, and the Canadiens winning twice in regulation.
“You play the same team that many times in a short span, the physicality, it gets harder and harder and more and more physical,” said Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers.
Monday, Kyle Connor scored both Jets goals against the Canadiens on the power play.
The 24-year-old forward, who has 14 goals on the season, said he liked the way the Jets were moving the puck, despite their 14 giveaways. However, they need to find ways to score at even strength.
“We could have had a guy net-front a little more once we get to the point, but other than that, we’re moving well and reading off each other and getting it to behind the net,” Connor said. “That’s our game. That’s what we’re successful at as a team, getting pucks behind the net and it just collapses everybody.”
The Jets also have to match the Canadiens’ speed and intensity, he added.
“I think what (Montreal is) good at is transition,” Connor said. “They’ve got a lot of quick forwards and Ds that like to pound the puck. They’ve got some heavy shots back there and they’re definitely a shot-volume team. … I think they like to funnel everything at the net, and they’ve got a lot of quick guys that, if you’re not smart with it through the neutral zone, they can make you pay.”
–Field Level Media