The Jets had decided to rest some of their best players and the Canadiens were what they’ve been all year; injured and disorganized.
Winnipeg took advantage of Canadiens blunders to take a 3-0 lead. but things changed with a minute left in the second period when Artturi Lehkonen, who was one of the few who had his stuff together, rifled home a loose puck to make it 3-1.
In the third period the Canadiens were a different team while the Jets kept playing like a team that has nothing left to accomplish in the season’s remaining games. The Canadiens came back to tie it; twenty-four seconds later lost the lead again; tied it again and then lost the game 5-4 in overtime. Another path to what was their 52nd loss of the season.
EASING THE WORKLOAD
As the schedule entered the month of March it was becoming clear that Jeff Petry had hit the wall. After carrying an unaccustomed heavy load after Shea Weber went down and weariness was showing.
The coaching staff reduced his ice time from what as a nightly 25-plus minutes to something in the neighbourhood of 22 minutes. There had been signs that his energy was returned the last four games. In this game he was dominant. The jump to his game that was missing was back and it showed on the scoresheet . He finished with four shots on goal and two assists. It gives him 6 points his last five games.
What with the injuries and sophomore season struggles, this has not been a pleasant six months for Artturi Lehkonen.
In most of his first 63 games, Lehkonen was out of synch. Not in this game. His quickness on that loose puck that produced the Canadiens first goal was just one example how often he was around the puck in this game. He also had four shots on goal.
Prior to the game Paul Byron was awarded the Jacques Beauchamp “unsung” player award. Byron then became only the second member of the Canadiens to score his 20th goal of the season. This was a really good night for Byron and linemates Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher. The line produced 12 shots on goal. I’m reminded of an old Broadway song titled “You Gotta Have Heart”. The only 20 goals corers on the Canadiens are their two smallest forwards, Byron and Gallagher.
ALSO WORTH NOTING
….Alex Galchenyuk continues to be the one to watch. Goal and assist in this game. 3 goals, 8 assists in his last 11 games. Who says he’s not a playmaker?
….With Jacob de la Rose starting to show some promise, I wonder whether there is any sense bringing Tomas Plekanec back to Montreal. I can’t imagine him being an offensive force but there seems to be a role for him as a bottom-6 forward. De la Rose won 15 of 20 faceoffs.
….Carey Price gave up five goals which isn’t good. Price has to take some responsibility for his terrible numbers this season but, like so may of his games this season, his defence didn’t help him on four of the five Winnipeg goals.
FEELING THE DRAFT
This really was a strange night.
While the Canadien picked up a loser point versus Winnipeg, the other bottom feeders also picked up points. Arizona beat Calgary, Vancouver lost in a shootout and Detroit suffered an overtime loss.
Somehow through all of this the Canadiens find themselves dropping down to 29th in the overall standings – in other words, third in the draft lottery. They’re in third place because of a difference of one win in the tiebreaking ROW column (regulation overtime wins) vs. Arizona who, because of their win is now fourth.
If the Canadiens remain third from the bottom they could finish no worse than 6th in the draft but it also increases their odds of taking the first choice to 11.5% and retaining a top-three choice to 33.9%.
Two games left in the season, both of them on the road. In Detroit on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday.
Detroit currently is sixth in the draft lottery, with three points more than the Canadiens, also with two games remaining.