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Leafs score three in third, top Canadiens in North Division showdown – Sportsnet.ca

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MONTREAL — Justin Holl and Ilya Mikheyev scored 42 seconds apart early in the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 on Wednesday night.

Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman, into an empty net, had the other goals for Toronto (11-2-1), which got 33 saves from Frederik Andersen. Jake Muzzin added three assists and John Tavares had two as the Leafs improved to 8-0-1 over their last nine games.

Josh Anderson and Tomas Tatar replied for Montreal (8-3-2). Carey Price stopped 20 shots.

The Leafs increased their lead over their Original Six rival atop the NHL and all-Canadian North Division standings to five points inside the Bell Centre, which would have been rocking in a normal season, but instead remains devoid of fans because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Auston Matthews saw a career-high goal streak snapped at eight games for Toronto, but he extended his point streak to 11 contests. Mitch Marner, meanwhile, saw his eight-game point streak come to an end.

The Canadiens have a quick turnaround with the Edmonton Oilers waiting in the wings Thursday in the second half of a back-to-back, while the Leafs will head home to prepare for Saturday’s rematch with Montreal — the third of 10 meetings between the clubs in 2021.

Tied 1-1 through 40 minutes, Toronto pushed ahead at 1:50 of the final period when Holl was given all day to load up and blast a slapshot by Price’s glove for his first of the season while playing 4-on-4.

Price, who watched three of Montreal’s five previous games as the Canadiens look to get the most out of their starter with a dependable backup in Jack Allen, was then beaten again at 2:32 when Mikheyev banged home his first.

The goal was also the winger’s first since Dec. 27, 2020 — the same night he suffered a serious wrist laceration from a skate blade against the New Jersey Devils.

Montreal made a push as the period wore on, with Tatar scoring his fourth with 3:20 left in regulation off a scramble to make it 3-2, but the Leafs and Andersen held the fort late until Hyman scored into an empty net off a pass from Matthews.

The home side entered the marquee matchup rested following Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, while Toronto was playing its fourth game in seven nights after sweeping the Vancouver Canucks three straight at Scotiabank Arena.

The Canadiens opened the scoring 76 seconds into Wednesday’s first period on a sequence started and finished by Anderson. The big winger dislodged the puck from Muzzin with a hit in the neutral zone before taking a pass from Jonathan Drouin and beating Andersen off the rush on the Canadiens’ first shot to score his ninth that equalled Tyler Toffoli’s mark for the team lead.

The Leafs, who weren’t good through 40 minutes Monday against Vancouver before coming alive to secure a 3-1 victory, again took a while to get going, but started to find their legs as the period wore on.

Travis Boyd heeled a shot with Price at his mercy on a good shift that drew a penalty, and Marner forced a tricky glove stop out of the Canadiens netminder as Montreal carried a 1-0 lead to the locker rooms.

Tavares, who had a great chance early in the second, was left bloodied and forced to leave the game for repairs later in the period after getting tied up with Canadiens captain and counterpart Shea Weber.

Andersen then stopped Toffoli before William Nylander whipped a shot wide from the slot at the other end.

With Tavares back on the ice and playing some inspired hockey, Toronto got even when Dermott, who returned to the lineup following a two-game absence because of a charley horse, wired his first at 15:48 with the teams also playing 4 on 4 after the Leafs hemmed the Canadiens in their own zone.

Notes: Dermott’s goal was his first in 37 games dating back to last season. … After dressing 11 forwards and seven defencemen Monday, the Leafs went back to the usual four full lines and three blue-line pairs. … Montreal winger Joel Armia returned after sitting out with a concussion.

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About Last Night: Even in defeat, the Canadiens aren't 'worried' about Carey Price – Montreal Gazette

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Habs star goalie believes he may be “overthinking” things

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Dominique Ducharme was given the keys to the Canadiens this week on an interim basis. He is now the bench boss of a team that is badly in need of some good fortune and having nothing but during the first month of the year.

While there are some more minute details (faceoffs, zone entries) that need attention as well, there is already one massive dilemma he will need to navigate. His star goaltender isn’t playing like the elite star he was once heralded as.

Price hasn’t been good enough. He’s had starts where he’s been downright unreliable this season. Yours truly thought he might have turned a corner after defeating the Maple Leafs prior to his team’s week-long break, completely downplaying the idea of a goaltending controversy.

Since then, Price is 0-2-1 with a save percentage of .853 and 14 goals allowed. He’s allowed five goals in two of his last three starts.

Just like Claude Julien before him, he hasn’t turned that corner.

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“I just think, maybe, I’m overthinking things. That’s all I got for you,” Price said after a 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last night.

It happens. Even to a goalie who makes over ten million dollars per season. But in a shortened season where the Canadiens need to make the playoffs, Price’s margin for error is thinner than usual. The Canadiens might still be among the four best teams in the North Division, but if Price can’t keep his team in games, would it be a surprise to see the Canadiens use Jake Allen more often than not going forward?

The Canadiens are at that point yet.

Ducharme thought Price played “like the team” did Thursday night. In an earlier answer, Ducharme said his squad “cracked mentally and physically” in the second half of the game. But Ducharme did his best to put as much as he could on the team and not on one singular player. And he seemed hopeful that Price could still turn his sub-par season around.

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“Like we do with all our players, we’re going to look at every possibility and we want our guys to be playing their best and find solutions for every one of them. From the forwards to the (defence) to the goalies. So we’ll find a solution.

“Carey’s a competitor. I’m not worried.”

You certainly won’t hear Canadiens players put the blame on Price. And it’s fair to say that the players could share some of that blame too.

I think back to a Brendan Gallagher quote from Tuesday night’s loss to the Ottawa Senators where Price made some outstanding saves but also allowed some bad goals against the Senators.

“He made so many big saves. Pucks are going to go in sometimes. He made save, after save, after save. We don’t have a chance if not for Price. There’s no concern there.”

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Now, hold that quote up side-by-side with Jonathan Drouin’s own from Thursday night. He was asked if his team’s dip in performance in front of Price had more to do with the team, or if it was because Price wasn’t playing like the Price many people have come to expect.

“I think it’s both,” Drouin said. “It’s true that Carey hasn’t been at this best. But I think we haven’t been either. If you see the goals (he allows), they’re off of tic-tac-toe or backdoor plays. I don’t know many goalies who are going to stop those. He saved us against Ottawa two, three times with his stick, with some spectacular saves.

“But that’s on us too to not give up so many grade-A chances. We could have him just make easier saves and take easier shots where he sees the puck, there are no rebounds, the defencemen are doing their job, forwards come back to the crease to help Carey.”

The coaches and players are throwing support behind their number one goalie, even if the statistics don’t support his case of being a number one goalie, let alone elite.

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If that’s the road they wish to go down, then the Canadiens will need to do everything they can to restore Price’s confidence.

It might actually be Ducharme’s most important task aside from making the playoffs.

The best of last night’s Liveblog

It’s where you can find all the varying opinions on Carey Price.

About one quarter of the posts here tonight are laying this on Carey Price. That’s 50-50 to me… Yes, his skills are diminishing. Turning 34 in August is the logical explanation. But the team in front of him is also of diminished skill. The beef against CP is the quality of recent play. OK. But give the guy credit for his resumé in MTL. The real beef is the contract. And you CAN’T blame CP for that! — Rudi Hittisau

Price is finished. I did not think he could let in a worse goal than Tkachuk’s 2nd goal last game but the Jets 4th goal by Thompson was complete and UTTER Garbage. Nate just shoveled it at the net and it ate Price up like it was a 100 mph Bobby Hull slapshot. I mean what the hell was he doin on that. That was the game right there. That goal completely deflated the tires. When, and I will repeat myself, WHEN is the management group going to wake up and see this guy Price is a head case. That was utterly terrible. When Petry makes an egregious error and gives the puck away that was bad, but c’mon Price swallow the shot and don’t give up a nice juicy rebound. Boom goal #5. That is not NHL caliber goal tending by anyone’s measuring stick. I can’t watch this guy anymore. Play Allen every game for the rest of the season and put Price on waivers and see if anyone is stupid enough to take him. They said the team quit on Julien. When is someone going to write that Price has quit on his team. — Mac Alexander

Price is finished. Seriously. I’ve stood behind him for years but no more. Cut a deal with Seattle. Leave him unprotected. He and Angela live near family and we eat half the salary which still should buy a decent UFA. He looks like he doesn’t care anymore. Body language speaks volumes. If I see it you know every player sees it. it’s time. Sit him. Allen #1. Primeau back up. Price plays only once we’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. I can’t believe I’m saying that 1/4 into the season but that’s how I feel. Oh yeah. I’ll be watching Saturday because I love hockey. — Habs SkiFan

I remember a time when the Canadiens scoring 3 goals with Price in nets was almost a guaranteed win, I just can’t recall when that time was — Ryan Katz

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In the Habs' Room: Canadiens played a perfect game — till they 'cracked' – Montreal Gazette

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It was unreasonable to think Dominique Ducharme could produce a turnaround after one morning skate.

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Dominique Ducharme and his staff have a lot of work to do.

It was unreasonable to think the new head coach could produce a turnaround after one morning skate, but the Canadiens didn’t look much different than they have over the past two weeks leading up to the dismissal of Claude Julien.

The Winnipeg Jets rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Canadiens 6-3 Thursday at Bell MTS Place.

Ducharme said the Canadiens played a perfect game for 30 minutes before they “cracked” — mentally and physically.

Carey Price hasn’t been very good this season, but Ducharme gave him a vote of confidence by starting him. When asked to evaluate Price’s performance — six goals on 31 shots — Ducharme said the $10.5-million man was “like the team, he’s part of the team.” That means he was good at the start and not so good as the game went on and the Jets increased the pressure.

The Canadiens need Price to be a great goaltender but he’s not even good right now. After Thursday’s blitz, he has a 5-4-3 record with a 3.13 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage. In the past, a struggling Price has been able to step away and work with goaltending coach Stéphane Waite but, with the compressed schedule, that’ s a luxury the Canadien can’t afford.

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Ducharme said the Canadiens have to get better at both ends of the ice.

“I think we can be much better with the puck breaking out,” Ducharme said. “We have to be making stronger plays. That doesn’t mean throwing the puck away. We have to be stronger in our decisions, making high-percentage plays in our zone.

“Defending the zone, I thought we did a pretty good job early in the game (but) the more it went, the more we were backing in,” added Ducharme. “There were less turnovers in the neutral zone, less counters, not playing as fast. It all comes together.

“We’re a little fragile right now.,” said Ducharme. “It’s normal. We have to find a way to control the things that we have the ability to control. We didn’t do good work in that aspect of the game. We made mistakes that led to scoring chances and goals.”

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Jonathan Drouin noted that Winnipeg has some talented players on their top two lines but one of the themes going into this season was the Canadiens’ depth and their ability to roll four lines.

The depth was in play Thursday as Joel Armia started the game on the fourth line and scored two  first-period goals.

But the depth took a hit when Josh Anderson left the in the first period with an undisclosed injury.

Ducharme said the injury was a double whammy because Anderson is a talented player and his absence forced the coach to double-shift Armia and Corey Perry on the No. 2 line with Drouin and Nick Suzuki.

Ducharme said he didn’t think the injury was serious but more tests will be needed before he is cleared to play in Saturday’s rematch between the Jets and the Canadiens.

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The game provided a boost of confidence for Phil Danault, who was reunited with longtime linemates Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. Danault was on the ice for nearly 22 minutes and finished the game as a plus-1 although he struggled in the faceoff circle, winning only nine of 22 draws.

Faceoffs continue to be a problem for the entire team. The Canadiens won only 40 per cent of their draw and the only centre over 50 per cent was Suzuki, who won seven of 13 draws. Jesperi Kotkaniemi won only one of six.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

  1. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is beaten by Jets forward Kyle Connor in Winnipeg Thursday night.

    New coach, same old Canadiens as they fall 6-3 to the Jets

  2. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches his team's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM’s hand in firing of Julien

  3. MONTREAL, QUE.: SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 -- New Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Dominique Ducharme speaks to players during training camp practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday September 14, 2018.  (John Mahoney} / MONTREAL GAZETTE) ORG XMIT: 61367 - 9188

    New Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme looks calm, cool and confident

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Canadiens vs. Jets recap: Winnipeg spoils Dominique Ducharme’s debut – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Coming off an overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators that led to the firing of head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller, the Montreal Canadiens hit the road to take on the Winnipeg Jets. But a change behind the bench couldn’t spark the Habs, as the Jets spoiled Dominique Ducharme’s debut with a come-from-behind 6-3 victory.

The Ducharme era began on a promising note, as Montreal reverted to playing a style of hockey that had made them so successful at the beginning of this season. The Canadiens pressured early, using their speed and forechecking to force the Jets to fall back into their own zone.

Having moved away from needlessly dumping and chasing the puck, the Habs instead concentrated on providing more puck support. The defensive core also got in on the action, playing more aggressively and allowing the Canadiens’ offensive lines to challenge Connor Hellebuyck often in the opening minutes of the game.

This strategy would pay off just over halfway through the period, when Alexander Romanov made a heads-up play to spring Joel Armia, who ripped his fourth goal of the season past Hellebuyck to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead.

Armia would strike again with less than three minutes left in the period, when he redirected a nifty pass from Jonathan Drouin to double Montreal’s lead.

Though the home team did show some flashes of life throughout the opening frame, Carey Price cooly shut down any scoring chances to keep the Jets off the scoreboard to end the period with a 2-0 lead.

The Canadiens’ momentum began slowly unravelling in the second. The Habs were dealt a tough blow, losing Josh Anderson to injury, and the forward did not return to the game. Though Montreal once again pushed early and often, Winnipeg used the first intermission to regroup and counter-attack against a porous Canadiens defence.

Kyle Connor took advantage of a defensive breakdown to cut Montreal’s lead in half just under five minutes into the frame on the Jets’ first man advantage of the night, when a delay of game penalty was called against Shea Weber.

The Habs responded with a power play marker of their own shortly after, when Neal Pionk was sent off for high-sticking Nick Suzuki. Jesperi Kotkaniemi blew past Nathan Beaulieu to set up a two-on-zero situation with Tomas Tatar, and the Slovak had no trouble burying his fifth of the season to restore Montreal’s two-goal lead.

But that did little to deter the Jets, who used their new-found confidence to go on the offensive. Winnipeg’s persistence paid off just over halfway through the second, when Connor’s wristshot beat Price to cut the Canadiens’ lead back down to one.

Less than three minutes later, Blake Wheeler’s shot was redirected through traffic to tie the game at three apiece. The two goals scored in under five minutes by Winnipeg took the wind completely out of Montreal’s sails, as the team struggled to regain the dominant form it had shown during the opening frame.

Frustration started seeping in as the Canadiens couldn’t respond with a goal of their own, and instead ended the period taking an unnecessary penalty. Jeff Petry was called for roughing Andrew Copp, and the Jets opened the third period on the man advantage.

Though the Habs were able to successfully kill off that penalty and a subsequent high-sticking call against Ben Chiarot, the team put up little resistance to the home team’s offensive pressure. This tepidity would come back to haunt Montreal, when Nate Thompson slipped a shot through Price’s pads to give Winnipeg its first lead of the game — on a goal that Price would definitely like back.

Both teams continued to exchange penalties in the third period. Wheeler was called for hooking Tatar just over seven minutes in, while just under three minutes later Joel Edmundson was given two minutes for slashing Mark Scheifele’s stick away.

Though neither team was able to score on the man advantage, Pierre-Luc Dubois extended his team’s lead seconds after the Edmundson penalty expired. Dubois made quick work of a Canadiens turnover in their own zone and took advantage of scrambling defensive work to extend Winnipeg’s lead to 5-3.

Trying to put some life back into his team, Corey Perry fought Nikolaj Ehlers, but his efforts went to waste as Montreal continued to play more passive hockey and eventually ended up surrendering an empty-net goal to Scheifele.

A strong performance in the opening period became completely undone as the Canadiens gave up five unanswered goals to drop this game to the Jets. Montreal will need to re-group and figure out a way to stanch the bleeding, when they face off against Winnipeg again this Saturday.

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