For the eighth time in eight games for the Canadiens who have passed the third period, the result was a loss. And it doesn’t matter that they had a chance to win this one with a 2-on-1 game that Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck stole, because if the season ends with this team outside of a playoff position of a point, no we will say that it is after they almost scored.
Canadiens top scorer Jeff Petry had the game on his stick when Hellebuyck closed his pads to stifle Wednesday’s overtime possibility. It was on his stick again when three Jets players invaded him and forced him to roll as his two linemates went to change instead of helping keep the pressure on a trio of Jets who was spent. And Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme watched helplessly from the bench as Nikolaj Ehlers carried the puck into his team’s zone on a 3-1 and managed a third spike thanks to his NHL coaching record in 3. against 3.
“It’s true,” Ducharme said after the 4-3 loss. “I wish we had a 5v5 overtime.”
At least the Canadians could have made it to the shooting. After all, they were tied 3-3 in the 5v5 game with the Jets in this one.
The way the Canadiens went into overtime was emblematic of how they have played under Ducharme – inconsistently – with his 3-3-3-1 record since taking over from Claude Julien on February 24 in testifies.
Phillip Danault, who scored one of their goals in Wednesday’s game, made it perfectly clear after Bergevin spoke on Tuesday, when he said: “When everyone buys and we apply (our system) , we give ourselves a chance to win every game. , and when we don’t, we shoot ourselves in the foot.
The Canadians put a nine-millimeter ball in one in the first quarter of the game, allowing Blake Wheeler to open the scoring. They inflicted a few more flesh wounds before the halfway point, with gifts the Jets forced to allow Kyle Connor to score two goals.
“We’ve played them enough, we know what kind of failure before they come,” said Brendan Gallagher of the Canadiens’ five games before this one. “They did a really good job executing it, but you have to play. This is what it comes down to. The media should be there and you should run. They just did a better job of checking out before we did it to bust. Definitely an area of the game where we weren’t good enough.
And then the Canadiens went into the second intermission with 3-1, patched up and got out and played arguably their best time of the season.
Gallagher scored to reduce the deficit to one after nearly six minutes of pure Montreal domination. And Tyler Toffoli scored his 18th of the season to tie the game with the Canadiens’ net empty and 1:25 left in regulation.
They were all desperate, engaged and playing exactly the way they wanted all the time.
“I saw a dedicated team,” said Danault. “A hungry team that did not accept to lose. The fight too, I really appreciate the effort we all put in together. And we all know the Jets are a great offensive team, and we played great defensively in the third and didn’t give up; we were stronger, we won our battles… ”
And then the overtime boogeyman came out and snatched it all away from the Canadiens.
“The first thing was to take possession,” Ducharme said of his strategy in the extra frame. “With a face-off favoring a southpaw, we went with Phil, (and) the speed of (Paul Byron) and (Petry) skating really well as well. We took control, we waited for the right moment, and they gave us a chance to attack on a 2v1 and we grabbed it.
“We get the puck back and that’s where a bit of panic set in. The (Jets) got stuck on the ice for 45 seconds when we initiated a change, but we should have attacked even more since we had control. I sent three forwards on the ice during the changeover, but we got impatient when we took control and lost the puck.
This gave the Canadians a 2-2-1-1 record on that road trip, where they desperately needed a “winning streak together,” as Gallagher put it.
The Canadiens are now 13-8-8, hanging on to fourth and final playoff spot in the seven-team North Division. Accumulating even half the points they left on the board in overtime or shootout would have them within two points of first place.
So they either have to fix this now or find a way to put the games away before they can be decided that way. Or do both.
At least Canadians feel capable.
“I think we will continue to improve,” said Ducharme. “Every night I’m convinced against any team that if we go there and play the way we can play in our style of play, we can beat anyone. I have no problem with this. ”
But Ducharme knows that an extra point here or there can make all the difference.
“I don’t know if anyone is going to run away,” he said. “You look around the division, the competition is (tight) every night and it’s hard to say who is going to win. Because you play as a team multiple times in a row, it’s hard to break up, because it’s hard to beat the same team twice and three times in a row. And you can see it all over the league, it’s ups and downs. So I think it’s going to be a sprint for everyone until the end, and I think it’s going to be an air fight until the end.