ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. —The Canadiens started the week off on Tuesday with a 3-0 deficit against the Devils, before scoring four unanswered goals to go on to win 5-4 in shootout. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the shootout winner after being booed throughout the game from his former fans in New Jersey. “We got a bit of a boost. It was 3-0, then [Joel Armia] scores a goal shorthanded and it really gave the team some energy,” said Claude Julien post-game.
On Thursday, Jeff Petry scored the game winning goal 25 seconds into overtime to give his team 3-2 win at the Bell Centre against the Ducks. Carey Price was key to the victory making 35 saves.
The Maple Leafs had a 1-0 lead with 2:33 remaining in the third on Saturday before Marco Scandella scored his first goal in a Canadiens jersey to send the game to overtime. Who else but Kovalchuk with the winner as he picks up an errant puck in the slot and gets it into the back of the net. It was Kovalchuk’s 17th career goal in overtime, ranking him third in NHL history.
“For two periods, and the third as well, I thought without the puck we were solid tonight. They’re a highly skilled team and when you give them room they can make things happen. But with the penalty-kill and everything else I think we did a good job without the puck and we brought our offence at the right time. A big win,” said Julien after the game.
With nine wins in their last 12 games, Montreal begins the week five points behind Toronto, currently holding the third spot in the Atlantic division. The Panthers are three points ahead of the Canadiens in the standings, and have three games in hand.
The Coyotes visit the Bell Centre on Monday night before Montreal heads to Boston to face the Bruins on Wednesday and then Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Valentines Day. The week ends on Saturday with a visit from the Stars.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s Energy
“Last night guys worked, we’re on top, we played well, maybe Kovy’s [Kovalchuk] that guy last night that score that goal to make it 2-2 game and then go to overtime,” said Marc Bergevin on January 3rd after signing the veteran to a contract. The previous night, the Canadiens lost a one goal game against the Lightning in a game where Tampa Bay scored their second goal 8:28 into the first period, and Montreal was unable to tie the game in the last 51 minutes of play.
Kovalchuk has provided key goals since joining the team. It took only 15 games for him to lead the team with three game winning goals. In addition to his six total goals, Kovalchuk has also scored twice in shootout.
While the city was digging out from the snow storm in the city on Thursday, Kovalchuk greeted his family, freshly arrived from Los Angeles, and brought them to a local rink to play some hockey with his kids.
The veteran has made his presence felt in the dressing room. “It’s infectious, especially for young guys to see as someone who’s had that much success in the League, and it shows why. [Ilya Kovalchuk] puts the effort in in practice, on the ice, in the gym. He’s constantly trying to get better,” said Ben Chiarot on Saturday.
With trade deadline in two weeks, a decision will need to be made by the general manager whether to trade Kovalchuk or attempt to re-sign him for next season. “I’m pretty sure we will have discussions with GM and my agent will talk to them. So we’ll see what’s gonna happen but like I said a lot of times I love everything here and we have special group here so it will be fun to stay,” spoke Kovalchuk about his future in Montreal.
In my opinion, the best thing for the organization from a hockey perspective is to complete a trade. TSN’s Pierre Lebrun recently reported that Bergevin is looking for a second round draft pick for Kovalchuk. It will likely be in the bottom half of the second round as the team acquiring him would be already in a playoff spot or very near in clinching one.
We have also seen that not all the decisions are based completely on a hockey perspective. We saw the excitement and energy in the building when the overtime goal was scored, including Geoff Molson banging on the glass in celebration. With attendance at the Bell Centre on the decline and the potential negative backlash from the fan base towards the organization, the hockey decisions may be influenced.
Jake Evans NHL Debut
The flu bug hit the Canadiens hard over the last week. Carey Price, Victor Mete, Jordan Weal, Ryan Poehling all missed action, while Tomas Tatar skipped practices because of the virus.
Jake Evans received the call on Thursday morning to come in relief for the forwards not available for the evening’s game against Anaheim. His family came to town to watch him play his first game in the NHL.
Evans was slotted to the right of Kovalchuk and Max Domi, and almost had a memorable debut obtaining a breakaway on his first shift that was stopped by John Gibson. “I think he did really well you know for the first NHL game he’s got that breakaway in the first shift. It would be nice if he would score that but he looks you know solid he was simple but he played well,” said Kovalchuk post game.
“For the most part I thought was pretty good. Some some plays and shifts that got caught out for and maybe we’d like back but for the most part I thought, played with some confidence and didn’t second guess myself and had some fun too,” said Evans after playing 11:19 and taking two shots on goal against Anaheim.
“We’re all cheering for him to score on that first shift, first real NHL game, would have been nice for him to get that goal but he played with speed. I thought for a guy plays mostly center, hasn’t played a ton on the wing along the wall he did a good job,” evaluated Julien.
The previous night, Evans played his first pro game on the wing with Laval. It was a bit head scratching decision, but the Canadiens wanted him to get in a game in anticipation of getting recalled. He finished the contest by scoring two goals on four shots on goal and added one assist.
“He has hockey sense. Competitive, hockey sense, so he was able to adjust quickly,” said Joel Bouchard after the game. “Being able to play every position can give him a better chance to have a future in the NHL.”
Evans left a good impression with the organization as he was amongst the final cuts in training camp. Things didn’t go as well to start the season in Laval. After finishing second in team scoring last season, it took Evans 18 games before scoring his first goal of the season. Since then, he has 30 points in 31 games, and currently leads the Rocket with 12 goals and 22 assists.
With the return of Jonathan Drouin to the lineup on Saturday after missing the last 37 games, the domino effect pushed Evans to a reduced role on the fourth line to the right of Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson. Evans had 7:54 of ice time, including penalty kill responsibility replacing Artturi Lehkonen that was on a brief stop with the medical staff.
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