Montreal, which is attempting to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, outshot the Jets 43-24.
WINNIPEG — Claude Julien said he wanted to see his players use their wings and fly for three periods and they did exactly that Saturday night as they skated to a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place.
The Canadiens, who are desperate for wins as they attempt to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, outshot the Jets 43-24. While all that flapping produced only two goals — by Joel Armia and Jeff Petry — the Canadiens limited the Jets’ opportunities and provided Carey Price with a relatively easy night until Mathieu Perreault turned it into a cliffhanger with a goal at 11:24 of the third period. Price had to make a save during a goalmouth scramble with three minutes to play to preserve the win.
Jordan Weal’s empty-netter sealed the deal.
Former Jet Armia, who had never scored a power-play goal before this month, scored his second to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead late in the first period. The Canadiens had a strong start and were outshooting the Jets 13-5 when Nikolaj Ehlers was sent off for tripping Armia. It took only seven seconds for the worst power play in the NHL to grab the lead. Weal, who was given a larger role when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was benched, won the draw, found Phillip Danault at the side on the net and Danault set up Armia in the slot.
Armia seemed to relish playing against his former team. Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck had to make a skate save on Armia during a second-period power play and he also stopped Armia on a breakaway.
Montreal outshot Winnipeg 15-5 in the first period and had the best scoring chances before Armia scored. Andrew Shaw set up Artturi Lehkonen early in the period, but Lehkonen’s shot was a reflection of his season. Hellebuyck couldn’t handle the puck with his glove hand, but it hit the post.
With five minutes to go in the period, Danault forced a turnover in the Winnipeg zone and set up Brendan Gallagher in the slot, but his shot was directly at the goalie.
The Canadiens continued to apply the pressure in the second period, but the Jets had two opportunities with less than six minutes to play. Price made a big save on Jacob Trouba and the hockey gods smiled on him seconds later when Dustin Byfuglien’s shot hit a post.
There was more divine intervention in the final minute of the second period when Kevin Hayes hit the post with a drive from the slot and the Canadiens went back the other way and took a 2-0 lead on Petry’s 13th goal with 36.6 seconds remaining. Brett Kulak picked up an assist on the goal and he has two goals and three assists in a three-game point streak.
Julien juggled his lineup earlier Saturday. He cited fatigue as the reason for giving Kotkaniemi a night off. Weal moved into Kotkaniemi’s spot on the third line between Jonathan Drouin and Armia. Matthew Peca made his first appearance in more than a month, playing right wing on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and Nicolas Deslauriers.