The inability to take advantage of opportunity is one of the numerous reasons why the Montreal Canadiens will not be in the postseason, but on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche, there was a chance to redeem their shortcomings of the past.
The Avalanche came into Montreal sporting a 10-game winning streak after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. The Canadiens, who had not played since Saturday against the Boston Bruins, were the well-rested team in the matchup, and exploited the advantage on the ice, beating Colorado 4-2, their first loss since December 27, 2017.
Wearing Down the Avalanche
Like on Friday against the Washington Capitals, the Canadiens were convincingly the better team against the Avalanche. On the night, Montreal led in Corsi for percentage (57.52%-42.48%), shots on goal (40-22), scoring chances (30-25), and high dangerous chances (15-14) in all situations.
The Canadiens dominated along the boards as well, out-hitting the Avalanche 41-20. The 41 hits were the most in one game this season for the Canadiens, and was 15.8 more than their average per game.
“[Colorado] is a dangerous team when you give them space, and you let them skate. We closed up the game and forced a lot of turnovers,” said head coach Claude Julien following the win.
Jonathan Drouin, playing versus former Halifax Mooseheads’ teammate Nathan Mackinnon, had arguably his best game in a Canadiens uniform. The 22-year old scored one goal and two assists in 18:04 minutes played, while winning 73 percent of his faceoffs (8/13), and registering a Corsi for percentage of 62.5%.
Mackinnon, who currently sits second in the league in scoring with 60 points, scored his 24th goal of the season late in the third period, but was held to two shots on goal, and two scoring chances.
“That’s what you want to do against teams like [Colorado] who are playing well, and playing against an old teammate who you spent a lot of years with, said Drouin. It’s cool to compete against him, but it’s cool to win the game against him as well.”
Drouin-Deslauriers-Galchenyuk Steal the Show
Drouin’s linemates, Nicolas Deslauriers and Alex Galchenyuk, also enjoyed strong performances on Tuesday. Deslauriers recorded his seventh goal of the season when he opened the scoring 5:42 into the second period, and registered seven hits. Deslauriers continues to play the best hockey of his career, and credits his recent success to playing like he always has.
“I have to continue like this. Now is not the time to change my style of game, said Deslauriers. “I go in front of the net, and pick up what’s around there.”
Deslauriers’ play this season has been a highlight for the Canadiens, and his teammates have certainly taken notice of the effect he’s had on the team.
“He brings energy, said Drouin. “He’s a guy that plays the same way every game. You always know what you’re going to get out of him. He makes space, he hits, he has a lot of energy, but still able to put the puck in the net.”
Galchenyuk assisted on the Deslauriers goal and scored his own two minutes later on the man-advantage. It was only the fourth time in 62 attempts that Colorado had surrendered a power play goal. Galchenyuk became the eighth Montreal Canadien in history to record at least 41 multi-point games before the age of 24. He joins a list that features players such as Guy Lafleur, Henri Richard and Stephane Richer.
The win improves the record to 20-22-6 on the season. Montreal faces the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday before the All-Star game break, but being 11 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic division all but but seals the fate for this year’s team.
With the playoffs out of the question, the Canadiens will play the role of spoilers, as they face 24 games against teams vying for a playoff position in their final 34 games. With the return of Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw expected soon after the break, the Canadiens hope to be better in the final stage of the season.
“I think anytime you’re in this position, you just worry about that next game,” said Max Pacioretty.” “I think we do have to be better, so we have to find ways to be better throughout the lineup and get there that way.”