MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens had to deal with a depleted lineup on Tuesday night but still rose to the occasion.
Trailing 1-0, Montreal scored four unanswered goals to earn a 4-1 win over the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets.
“You’re always stronger collectively than you are individually,” said Habs coach Martin St. Louis. “We’re trying a culture where even if you lose guys, guys that play important roles, anyone that steps in plays the way we play.
"When you have that mentality, you can deal with the turnaround and we’re working really hard on that. You’re going to lose players but you need to keep building.”
Evgenii Dadonov understood the assignment, recording his first two-goal game since March 17, 2022. Back on Jan. 3, Dadonov had been a healthy scratch in three of his previous four games. Since then, the Russian has worked harder at morning skates and changed his approach and form.
“Dad's been a pro. Hasn’t complained, he puts his head down and he just goes to work,” St. Louis said. “Through the injuries and the lack of performance of the team when he was out, he finds himself an opportunity and he runs with it and grabs a chair. I’m happy for him to get rewarded.”
“Hopefully it will bring more confidence on offence,” said Dadonov. “Hopefully it's gonna get better and better.”
After defeating the New York Rangers 2-1 on Sunday, Montreal (19-23-3) recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 25 while handing the Jets only their second loss since the start of the new year.
In his fifth consecutive game in goal for Montreal, Samuel Montembeault made 24 saves on 25 shots.
“It feels good, we just beat two of the best teams in the league,” said Montembeault. "We just showed that when we play for 60 minutes and we play our kind of hockey, it just shows that we could compete with anybody.”
Jets coach Rick Bowness said his team “looked bad” in a disappointing loss to open a five-game Eastern Conference road trip.
“We weren't skating, our legs weren't going, our compete wasn't good, our execution was way off,” Bowness said. “There's very few games that we're going to walk out of a rink and say we didn't deserve to win, but that certainly was that tonight. We didn't deserve to win that.”
Kyle Connor was the lone scorer for the Jets (29-15-1) with his 200th NHL goal as Winnipeg's three-game win streak was halted.
Connor Hellebuyck allowed four goals and made 24 saves.
The Jets got on the board first after a scoreless opening frame. Connor completed the one-timer in the right faceoff circle from Josh Morrissey’s pass on the power play at 1:24.
Montreal responded with three unanswered goals to complete the second period. After missing an opportunity from the slot seconds earlier, Dadonov accepted Barron’s pass from the slot and whipped in a one-timer from the bottom of the right faceoff circle.
“We had a good penalty kill in the first, our power play came out and we got one right away. I thought we had some jumps, some legs, and they scored and it just kind of deflated us,” Connor said.
“It's not like us to kind of get down in a situation like that. Usually we're pretty even keel but you know, they just kept pouring it on and we looked slow tonight.”
The Habs took their first lead of the night at 9:28 when Hoffman beat Hellebuyck with a wrist shot.
Dadonov then scored his second goal of the game by pouncing on Hellebuyck’s rebound to give the Canadiens a 3-1 advantage.
Montreal increased their lead to three goals at 4:19 of the third. Dach attempted the wraparound and was denied by Hellebuyck but the rebound went to Anderson in the slot who scored his 15th of the season.
INJURY LIST EXPANDING
The Canadiens announced before the game that Juraj Slafkovsky (lower-body), Joel Armia (upper-body) and Jake Evans (lower-body) were added to the injury reserve list. Jonathan Drouin, who was a game-time decision with an upper-body injury, also missed the game. The team also placed Sean Monahan, who is dealing with a lower-body injury, on long-term injury reserve.
One positive for the Habs was the return of defenceman Mike Matheson, who played his first game since Dec. 17. The Montreal native was out with a lower-body injury.
BARRON VS. BARRON
Brothers Justin (Montreal) and Morgan Barron (Winnipeg) played against each other in an NHL game for the first time.
The Canadiens welcome the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
The Jets continue their five-game road trip by visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2023.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press