Jonathan Drouin, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher scored 10 points, but were most proud of their defence against Jets’ top trio in 5-2 win.
The line of Jonathan Drouin, Phillip Danaut and Brendan Gallagher had three goals and seven assists and contributed to every one of Montreal’s goals in Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night.
So what did they want to talk about after the game?
Their defensive play.
“When you play guys like (Blake) Wheeler and (Mark) Scheifele, you have to be on your toes and we were tonight,” said Drouin, who scored two goals and added two assists.
“It’s a great role, it’s exactly what I’ve wanted my whole life,” added Danault, who has been tasked with shadowing the opposition’s top lines since he arrived in Montreal. “I want to keep going and get better. It’s only the start.”
Scheifele scored his 27th goal of the season to give the Jets their only lead of the game at 1-0, but that goal was the result of the defence getting caught on a line change. For most of the night, the Jets’ top players were outplayed by the Canadiens’ top line. Drouin had nine shots on goal, two more than Wheeler, Scheifele and Kyle Connor combined.
“We just worked and skated and capitalized on our chances.,” said Gallagher, who had a pair of assists. “That’s a really good line that we were up against. They’ve done a lot of damage this year and we were excited about the challenge. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But I thought we were able to kind of — all five of us, our line and then (Victor Mete) and (Shea Weber) — we were just kind of able to play in the other end, which always helps.”
Coach Claude Julien said the Canadiens respected the Jets, but weren’t intimidated by the visitors.
“At the end of the day, we knew we could skate with them” Julien said. “They’re a fast team and so are we. We had to get to them quickly. If you look at the first goal, our defence got caught on a line change. But for most of the game, our forcecheck was good, our first guy was there and we were on them quickly.”
While the top unit led the way, Julien said the defensive effort wouldn’t have been possible without a contribution from every player.
“When you’re playing at that pace, you need four lines going,” Julien said. “If you try to shorten the bench, you can’t play at that pace.”
Danault said this was a statement game for the Canadiens.
“We want to push for the playoffs and we proved tonight we’re not going to let down,” he said.
The win gave the Canadiens a 3-0-1 record on their current homestand, which concludes Saturday with a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The current streak has pushed Montreal comfortably over .500 at home after mixed results earlier this season.
“It was one of our goals before the break to get some wins at home so teams knew we’re not that easy to beat at home,” said Danault, who had a goal and three assists. “In the playoffs those (home) games are important and we have a playoff mentality.”
The Canadiens led 2-1 after the second period, but Drouin said he wasn’t concerned because the Canadiens were pushing hard.
“(Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck) had a big save on (Nicolas Deslauriers) and one on me, but when you get 50 shots (actually 53), you’re going to score some goals. It was one of the first times we played a full 60 minutes. We had the puck the whole game,
“I like playing on this line because Phil gets the puck and I know he’s going straight up the middle and it gives me a chance to go wide and I know Gally’s going to the net,” Drouin said. “It’s easy for me.”