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Habs drop the hammer

Montreal scores fast, Maurice furious; Hellebuyck pulled after three goals on seven shots

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov celebrate after Danault scored on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Wednesday.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov celebrate after Danault scored on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

Didn’t catch the highlights of the Winnipeg Jets’ latest disaster?

Check out the clip of head coach Paul Maurice’s epic meltdown as he berated his squad during a timeout early in the second period Wednesday night after the Jets impersonated pylons on the Montreal Canadiens’ fifth goal of the game, a spectacular end-to-end rush by speedy winger Phillip Danault.

That pretty much tells the horror story. 

Maurice ripped off his glasses before tearing into his team in a vitriolic display by the bench boss rarely seen in these parts. Veins popping, Maurice had clearly seen enough.

Such is life with an inconsistent team that can seemingly go from contender to pretender in the blink of an eye.

Forty hours after Winnipeg posted one of its tidiest victories of the 2016-17 NHL season, Wednesday’s performance at the MTS Centre was a defensive abomination as the Habs posted a 7-4 victory, their fifth in their last seven games.

Winnipeg (20-21-3) took a big step forward Monday in a 2-0 shutout of the Calgary Flames, but stumbled badly against the visiting Canadiens (26-10-6), who increased their lead atop the Atlantic Division to nine points over the idle Boston Bruins.

After the game, Maurice said this won’t be a loss the organization simply dismisses as a one-off.  

"I didn’t like the way we played the entire night," he said. "You deal with it. We’re not sweeping this one under the rug. We’re gonna take a good look at all of it and make sure we appreciate the value of playing in the National Hockey League and we’re playing a game at home and the cost that every NHL game demands."

Danault and Artturi Lehkonen each scored twice for Montreal, which led 3-2 and 5-3 at the period breaks. Brian Flynn, Sven Andrighetto and Tomas Plekanec suppled singles for the visitors.

Centre Mark Scheifele fired his 18th and 19th goals for Winnipeg, while Bryan Little, with his seventh, and Mathieu Perreault, with his fourth, also scored.

Winnipeg got some unsightly goaltending from its starter, Connor Hellebuyck, who gave up three goals on just seven shots in 14 minutes of work — two days after shutting out the Flames.

His replacement, Michael Hutchinson was marginally sharper, giving up four goals on 23 shots.

"It was the whole game, from the goaltender to every guy out front," said Maurice. "We’re not walking away going our goalie’s gotta play better. We didn’t play well enough to win that game.

"We were (expletive) from the start, from the drop of that first puck to the very end."

When asked to comment on his animated lecture during the timeout, Maurice wouldn’t bite. "I’m not sure I remember, to be honest with you."

Canadiens goalie (and former Jet) Al Montoya looked shaky, blocking 23 shots with all-star netminder Carey Price getting a night off.

With the hosts down 5-2, Scheifele's second goal, coming on the power-play after a great feed from Nikolaj Ehlers at 5:06 of the second period, closed the gap after 40 minutes.

But Lehkonen potted his ninth and 10th before the 10-minute mark of the final period to propel the Canadiens.

 

Poor starts

The Jets surrendered goals within the first minute of the first and second periods. Heap some of the blame on bad luck as a couple of freaky bounces led to Danault’s game-opening tally at the 57-second mark and Andrighetto’s goal just 53 seconds into the middle frame.

But the old adage goes: you make your own luck.

"They had some breaks go their way, a couple of bounces, but at the same time we had a decent response but it wasn’t good enough," said right-winger Drew Stafford, who finished with two assists. "We needed to make sure we were staying on the puck, finishing a little more.

"When things aren’t going your way, it’s one thing to back off and we don’t want to do that. Unfortunately, it kept going in for us. So, that one was a tough one," he said. "We’re not happy about it. It’s one of those games where we have to take a look at ourselves after that one and re-evaluate and have a good (practice) and get ready for a very, very important road trip."

Little said the club can’t be so fragile, faltering after allowing quick goals to start periods.

"We’re a pro team and this is the NHL and this is what we’re paid to do, go out there and play hockey and battle for 60 minutes. We just didn’t have a response when they scored," he said. 

The club’s dependable trio of Adam Lowry and wingers Joel Armia and Shawn Matthias had a particularly difficult time handling the speed of Montreal’s forwards down low. The line was a combined minus-eight.

Somehow, blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien, who waved weakly at Danault as he blew by to rip his highlight-reel second goal and had a few other glaring defensive lapses, finished plus-one.

Hellebuyck, battling to become a bona fide NHL starter, continues to strive for consistency that has proven elusive. The 23-year-old product of Commerce, Mich., took ownership of some of his early struggles.

"I think I just made two mistakes and I got bad luck on the first one. I can’t make those mistakes that early in the game," he said, adding his confidence hasn’t taken a hit. "No, not at all. I felt good in the net. I just made some inopportune mistakes and I’m gonna make sure I don’t make those again. I’m gonna use this as a learning point and get back at practise really hard."

 

Down south

The Jets head south for three games against Pacific Division teams, starting the trip Friday in Glendale, Ariz., against the Arizona Coyotes. 

Ex-Jets forward Alex Burmistrov, plucked off waivers by the Coyotes more than a week ago, still hadn’t joined the squad in the desert as of Wednesday because of issues with his work visa. It’s not clear if he’ll play against his former club Friday.

Winnipeg heads to California to face the Los Angeles Kings Saturday and the San Jose Sharks Monday.

The Jets are chasing the Kings (20-17-4)  for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca          Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell .

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History

Updated on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 10:43 PM CST: Adds photo to story that fell off when coming over from Newsedit

January 12, 2017 at 6:20 AM: Updates

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