Whitby - Oct. 10, 2011 - There was a ‘hockey’quake in Winnipeg on Thanksgiving Sunday and the Montreal Canadiens delivered the final tremor with a 5 - 1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Habs’ centerman Tomas Plekanec led the Canadiens with a one goal, three-point effort and Carey Price was calm, confident and consistent in nets to lead Montreal to its first win of this young 2011-12 NHL season.
The Jets rewrote the history books late Sunday afternoon at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, playing their first regular season hockey game after a 15-year hiatus in the NHL. In front of a sold out, fan-frenzy, 15,004 Jets-favoured crowd, the energy inside the MTS Centre was electrifying. Only in Winnipeg, where fans have been rabid to see professional hockey return, could one witness a sold out arena for the pre-game warmup.
Prior to Sunday night’s contest, a video montage was featured honouring the late Rick Rypien, former Manitoba Moose, Vancouver Canuck and Winnipeg Jet, who passed away earlier this summer.
Unlike Thursday night’s second and third period collapse against Toronto, the Canadiens played a much more consistent 60 minutes on Sunday night. On this evening, the Canadiens still had to face adversity as the team suffered two more injuries to an already hobbled lineup. Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek left in the first period with an undisclosed upper body injury while forward Michael Cammalleri suffered a skate laceration above his knee in the second period and also had to leave the game. Neither Spacek nor Cammalleri returned to the contest.
Which Jets player has become a future trivia answer to the question ‘who scored the Winnipeg Jets first goal in the 2011-12 NHL season’? Your answer would be, Nik Antropov, who scored the Jets only goal in Sunday’s matchup at 2:27 of the second period to close the game to 2 - 1.
Size was once again a factor for Montreal in this contest.
With the score 2 - 0 for Montreal early in the third period, the Jets collectively started to lay the body on a much smaller Habs roster. Jets’ defenseman Mark Stuart simply leveled Habs’ captain Brian Gionta and the tide was quickly turning in favour of the Jets. The Canadiens were on their collective heels running around and avoiding hits being delivered by a hungrier and much more determined Winnipeg squad.
Unfortunately, the turning point of the game came for both clubs at the 4:28 minute mark of the third period. Jets’ defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was called for interference on Brian Gionta at Montreal’s blue line. The replay showed that Gionta had run into Byfuglien and not the other way around.
The Byfuglien penalty gave Montreal a five-on-three man advantage and 23 seconds later, Habs’ defenseman Yannick Weber fired a bullet past Jets’ netminder Ondrej Pavelec, giving Montreal a 3 - 1 lead and virtually took any remaining wind out of the Winnipeg sails in mounting any kind of comeback.
The three stars of the game were Jets’ forward Nik Antropov (3rd star, one goal), Habs netminder Carey Price (2nd star, 30 saves, .968 save percentage) and Plekanec (1st star, one goal, two assists).
Game Stats Review
P.K. Subban led the Habs in ice time with 25:45. He had four minutes in penalties.
Montreal’s starting lineup versus Winnipeg was Cammalleri, Plekanec, Cole up front with Gill and Subban on defence.
Habs’ rookie defenseman Alexei Yemelin saw his first NHL start with Chris Campoli being injured.
In the faceoff department, Andreas Engqvist was six-for-nine (.667), Plekanec was 13-for-23 (.565) and David Desharnais was only four-for-eleven (.364).
Travis Moen and Yannick Weber both had a goal and an assist. Other Habs scoring goals on this evening were Cammalleri and Plekanec.
Shots on Goal for Winnipeg were 31 to Montreal’s 22.
Montreal was one-for-three on the power play while Winnipeg was zero-for-six.
Winnipeg had 26 hits in the contest while Montreal only registered seven hits.
Defenseman Josh Gorges was solid once again leading the team in blocked shots with four.
Montreal’s next game is also their home opener on Thursday, October 13th at 7:30 p.m. when they host the Calgary Flames at the Bell Centre.
Until next time, play every game as if it is your last one…