The second Claude Julien era in Montreal did not get off to a promising start on Saturday afternoon when the Canadiens dropped a 3-1 decision to the Winnipeg Jets.
It was a sluggish performance at times and that probably should have been expected given the circumstances. Along with playing their first game under a new coach, it was also the Canadiens’ first game coming off of their bye week, a situation that pretty much every team has struggled in this season.
Entering Saturday teams were only 3-9-2 in their first game after the bye. The Canadiens added another one to the loss column on Saturday even though they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to an Andrei Markov goal. That was pretty much the only highlight on the day for the Canadiens as they were unable to add to their lead and allowed Winnipeg to score three consecutive goals over the game’s final 36 minutes to take the win.
Joel Armia scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal to tie the game for the Jets at the 4:36 mark of the second period. The game remained tied until the 1:16 mark of the third period when Matthieu Perreault scored his fifth goal of the season to give the Jets the lead after an incredible individual effort from Dustin Byfuglien to fight through the Montreal defense and set up the goal.
Patrik Laine added an empty net goal, his 28th goal of the season, to put the game away later in the period.
With that goal and an assist on the Perrault goal Laine moved back into the NHL’s rookie lead for goals (28) and points (50) even though he has missed eight games this season.
He is on pace for 39 goals this season as an 18-year-old.
Dale Hawerchuk, Sidney Crosby and Steve Yzerman are the only three players in league history to score at least 39 goals as 18-year-olds in the NHL.
Montreal remains just four points ahead of the Ottawa Senators for the top spot in the Atlantic Division while the Senators (who have four games in hand on Montreal) could close that gap to two points on Saturday night if they can beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canadiens have lost seven of their past eight games.
For the Jets, the win pulls them a little closer to a wild card spot in the Western Conference but they have already played three more games (at least) than every team they are competing with.