NHL Friday NBC Sports Network Preview: Montreal Canadiens at the Winnipeg Jets.
Montreal looks to take a 2-0 lead in the North Division finals at Winnipeg on the USA Network at 7:38 PM ET.
The Canadiens won the opening game of this series with a 5-3 victory on Wednesday. Jesperi Kotkaniemi opened the scoring 3:30 minutes into the first period. Eric Staal increased the lead just under two minutes later. The Jets’ Adam Lowry cut the lead in half on a shorthanded goal at the 11:52 mark of the first period. Nick Suzuki gave Montreal a 3-1 lead with a goal at 17:14 of the period.
Things slowed down with neither side scoring in the second period. Derek Forbort pulled Winnipeg to within one goal at 9:22 of the third period. Brendan Gallagher extended the lead back to two goals for the Canadiens on a power-play goal less than two minutes later. Kyle Connor brought the Jets back to a 4-3 deficit after scoring with under two minutes to go. Jake Evans iced the game for Montreal with an empty netter with 57 seconds remaining.
The end of the contest got marred by Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele’s brutal hit on Evans after converting the empty-netter. Scheifele got suspended for four games. Evans is out with a concussion as the bad blood between both teams rises.
Carey Price stopped 27 of 30 shots in leading the Canadiens to the victory. He has a 2.33 goals-against-average and a .928 save percentage in eight postseason starts.
Montreal has won four straight games after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs. The Canadiens opened the season strong, but injuries and a COVID stoppage contributed to them limping into the postseason after a condensed makeup schedule. Head coach Claude Julien was fired in late February and got replaced by assistant Dominique Ducharme on an interim basis.
Kotkaniemi leads the team with four goals in the playoffs. Staal has five assists and six points. Tyler Toffoli joins him for the co-lead on the team with six points coming from two goals and four assists.
The loss on Wednesday was the Jets’ first loss in seven games after they swept Edmonton in four games in the opening round. Rust may have played a role in Game 1 as Winnipeg had not taken the ice since May 24th after outlasting the Oilers in triple overtime to end that series.
Connor Hellebuyck had 28 saves on the 32 shots he faced in the losing effort. He has a 2.01 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage in five postseason games.
Connor leads the team with three goals in the playoffs. Blake Wheeler has two goals and three assists. Josh Morrissey has one goal and four assists. Neal Pionk also has four assists.
The Jets will miss Scheifele’s contributions centering their top line. He scored 21 goals and assisted on 42 others in the regular season. He has two goals and three assists in the playoffs. Second-line forward Paul Stastny and top-pair defenseman Dylan Demelo are questionable for tonight.
Montreal will be without Evans, who centers their fourth line. Topline left wing Tomas Tatar and fourth line right wing Arthur Lehkonen are questionable.
Winnipeg expects 5000 vaccinated health care workers in attendance at their Bell MTS Place once again for Game 2.
BookMaker lists the Jets as a -110 money line favorite with the total set at 5.5.
Computer prediction: Winnipeg Jets 3 Montreal Canadiens 1