Jets spoil Canadiens' final home game of season with OT victory
Carey Price sets franchise record for most regular-season games played by goaltender
With some top veterans sitting out, youngsters took centre stage for the Winnipeg Jets.
Sami Niku scored in his first NHL game and Kyle Connor got his 30th goal of the season in overtime as the Jets downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Add to that Patrik Laine's 44th of the season to move only two behind Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
"Any goal you score in this league is great, but overtime, and the way we stuck with it the whole game, it's awesome," said 21-year-old Connor. "This group is so good.
"We all push each other every day."
Nikolaj Ehlers, with his 29th, and Jack Roslovic also scored for the Jets (50-20-10), who moved to three points back of first place overall and Central Division rival Nashville with two games remaining for both clubs. The Jets finish the regular season with home games Thursday against Calgary and Saturday against Chicago.
Got back in the game
Winnipeg, which ended a four-game road trip, had already established a club record for wins in a season. The Jets have now won nine of their last 10 games.
Alex Galchenyuk forced overtime with a power-play goal at 18:18 of the third period. Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron and Kerby Rychel also scored for Montreal (28-40-12) in its last home game of the season.
"I liked the way we kept working hard and got back in the game," said Canadiens coach Claude Julien.
Montreal outshot the Jets 40-32.
The lineups had a pre-season look as the Jets rested Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Adam Lowry, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey with what were called minor injuries, while Montreal has regularly been using several minor league call-ups of late.
"We're so deep, you can see," said Connor.
The Jets were all over Montreal early and got the lead at 12:25 on a power play when Laine wired a goal to the top corner with an off-wing shot. Ehlers finished a 3-on-1 by knocking in a Paul Stasny pass at 14:19.
Roslovic one-timed a Tucker Poolman pass along the ice from the left face-off dot to score at 15:58, but Montreal got it back at 19:00 when Lehkonen picked up a loose puck in the slot and beat Steve Mason.
Byron reached the 20-goal mark for a second straight season as he banged in Brendan Gallagher's rebound 3:19 into the third frame and Rychel tied it 3-3 with a deflection after a faceoff in the Winnipeg zone at 10:15.
Only 24 seconds later, Niku scored on a wrist shot through traffic from the slot.
'I think it was lucky'
"The puck was coming and I shot and I think it was lucky,"said Niku. "I think it hit one of their players.
"It was really nice to play my first game at the Bell Centre. Montreal is such a big hockey town."
Montreal was on a power play and had Carey Price pulled for an extra attacker when Galchenyuk's shot from the right circle was juggled by Mason and dropped into the net with 1:42 left in regulation time.
Connor one-timed a Roslovic feed for the game-winner three minutes into overtime.
It was a 557th game for Price, who passed Jacques Plante for the Canadiens record for games played by a goaltender. A video tribute was played at 6:13 of the first period with messages from goaltending greats Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy and an emotionally moved Price got a long ovation. Plante has the team record for wins with 314.
Carey Price devient le gardien le plus sollicité de l'histoire du club. Félicitations, Carey! / <a href="https://twitter.com/CP0031?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CP0031</a> surpasses Jacques Plante for the most games played by a goaltender in Canadiens history. Bravo, Carey! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoHabsGo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoHabsGo</a> <a href="https://t.co/J9MlXmM6dB">pic.twitter.com/J9MlXmM6dB</a>—@CanadiensMTL
"Nobody enjoys losing, it wasn't a lot of fun this year, but it's nice knowing that we have the support," said Price, who stayed out the longest as the players signed autographs for fans after the game. "Obviously it's tough when things aren't going good but there's no better place when things are going well and that's just a taste of it."