On Thursday the Winnipeg Jets made their first visit to the Bell Centre in Montreal for the third meeting of the season between the two all-Canadian North Division clubs. Entering the game having won five of their last six overall and three of their last four road contests, Winnipeg did not tinker with much heading into the game.
The only lineup change for head coach Paul Maurice and the Jets was that of his goaltender. Connor Hellebuyck entered the game with 10 wins on the season, and left with 11. Having to earn three separate leads in the game, the Jets beat out the Habs by a score of 4-3 in overtime, on a game-winner by Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Winnipeg played a strong opening period, maintaining the majority of zone control through the first 20 minutes. The visitors scored the game’s opening goal and actually added a second goal later in the frame. Despite owning most of the offensive zone chances, the Jets maintained a close 10-9 lead.
Winnipeg received its first goal on a play from its first line of Blake Wheeler, Paul Stastny and Mark Scheifele. With Wheeler picking up a Neal Pionk pass down behind the Montreal net, he circled out from the goal line, spun and fired the puck towards the net. It redirected perfectly off the skate of Stastny and past Jake Allen and into the net for his sixth of the season.
Then, with just 4:35 left in the frame, Mathieu Perreault scored a near carbon copy of his goal from Tuesday. He intercepted a Tyler Toffoli turnover pass and walked in untouched on Allen, faking forehand and deking backhand before shooting the puck over the netminder’s pad, extending Winnipeg’s lead to two goals.
The second period saw Montreal strike first, as the team picked up a power play goal midway through the frame. With Andrew Copp in the box for tripping, Brendan Gallagher collected his eighth goal of the season off a Corey Perry rebound. Connor Hellebuyck made the initial stop, but a bouncing puck eluded the Jets’ goalkeeper, where Gallagher calmly skated towards the loose puck and swatted it into the cage with 10:07 to go in the second.
Then, following shortly after a Jets power play that saw the visitors unable to accomplish much in terms of quality scoring chances, the Canadiens tied the game on an off-the-skate deflection of their own. A Jonathan Drouin point shot was deflected by Nick Suzuki before bouncing into the Winnipeg goal off the skate of Toffoli for his 14th goal of the season.
Montreal controlled much of the play in the middle stanza, taking over the shot lead, the home team finished with 13 shots in the frame compared to Winnipeg’s five, pulling ahead to 22-15 through 40 minutes of play.
But it didn’t take the Jets long to respond. Just 3:39 into the third period Scheifele kept an offensive zone play alive, getting Stastny the puck down low. With not much room to work with, the veteran forward walked towards the Habs’ net and calmly roofed the puck over the right shoulder of Jake Allen, giving Winnipeg a 3-2 lead. Stastny’s second of the game marked the 26th two-goal game of his career.
Fast forward to the 18:36 mark as Montreal tied the game once again, this time with the extra attacker. With Allen on the bench, the Habs maintained zone control, leading to a long-range Jeff Petry point shot. Corey Perry provided a textbook screen and Jonathan Drouin got his stick on the puck in the high slot. It bounced past Hellebuyck and into the net for the game-tying goal.
Needing an extra period to get the job done, Winnipeg and Montreal went to overtime, where Maurice chose to go with three forwards for the first three shifts of the frame. Kyle Connor was denied on a breakaway, before Allen turned aside a Scheifele/Wheeler two-on-one. Hellebuyck made a sprawling save on Paul Byron with just under two minutes to go.
But with time ticking down, the Jets relied on newcomer Pierre-Luc Dubois for another overtime winner. Collecting a Nik Ehlers pass, Dubois walked towards the centre of the Canadiens’ defensive zone and fired the puck past Allen, going bar-down for the game-winner and his fifth goal of the season before being mobbed by his jubilant teammates.
With the win Connor Hellebuyck saw his record improve to 11-6-1 on the season while turning aside 33 of Montreal’s 36 shots Thursday evening. Allen, who took the loss, moved to 4-2-3 through nine starts in relief of Carey Price. Now sitting at 15-7-1 on the season, Winnipeg has 31 points and remains in second place behind just Toronto in the North Division and has won six of its past seven games.
Winnipeg concludes its two-game set against Montreal on Saturday evening. The two teams renew acquaintances at 6:00 PM on Hockey Night in Canada. The game can be viewed live on Sportsnet. Following that contest, the Jets head to Toronto for three-straight games at Scotiabank Arena against Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Winnipeg finally returns back home on March 15.