Corey Perry (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The Canadiens began their second round matchup on Wednesday against the Jets at the Bell MTS Place. Montreal opened the floodgates and scored five times in a 5-3 victory.

The night will be remembered for a hit that Mark Scheifele delivered to Jake Evans in the final minute after the Canadiens forward scored into into an empty net. The Jets regular season leading scorer was suspended four games for the incident.

“It’s disgusting. Players should have a little respect for the other players out there,” Jesperi Kotkaniemi said on the hit.

Carey Price stopped 30 pucks on Friday to record a shutout in Montreal’s 1-0 win in game two. “He’s solid. He’s really in the zone and he wants to win. He gives a chance to win every game. He gives us wings,” Philip Danault praised his goaltender. The victory gave Montreal their first four-game winning streak on the road in the playoffs since 1993.

The Habs returned to the Bell Centre on Sunday in front of 2,500 fans and they handed the Jets a 5-1 defeat to take a 3-0 series lead. Joel Armia became the first player in franchise history to get two shorthanded goals in the same playoff game.

“I liked our game, I liked the way we played, I liked our start, I liked our consistency throughout the match besides the start of the third period. We wanted to be better than our last game, and I think we did that,” Dominique Ducharme said.

“We just want to clean up some stuff in the defensive zone, but I think throughout the whole 60 minutes we played well,” Nick Suzuki added.

The ‘Fourth’ Line

“Was it a fourth line?”, Ducharme said after Sunday’s win when asked about the line of Corey Perry, Eric Staal, and Joel Armia. That’s a good question coach! The trio certainly isn’t playing like a fourth line.

“Probably on the board, they’re listed fourth, but they’re definitely not a fourth line. They’re playing big-boy hockey. They’ve been able to put together such long cycle shifts for us and work the puck down low. They all use their size to their advantage. They know what they are as a line and they just play to their strengths. Playoff hockey has certainly brought out the best in them. They’ve been awesome for us,” Brendan Gallagher said.

“They scored a huge goal to start the game and everyone kind of settled in from there,” Suzuki said about Perry’s goal 4:45 into the game. “They really set the tone offensively, and even defensively they can shut anyone down.”

“I love to play with those two guys. They’re really easy to play with. They’re really good with the puck in the corners and hanging onto the puck down low,”Armia spoke about his linemates. “I feel like we’re three similar type of players, we’re all big boys.”

Perry has three goals, five points in last six games, while Staal has one goal, four points in the last four games.

“They have offensive shifts that they’re hard to play against, they’re low, protect the puck well, they get big goals. They’re able to play against the opponent’s more offensive lines, and make them spend time in the defensive zone,” added Ducharme.

Caufield Shooting More

Cole Caufield is waiting to light the lamp for the first time in the playoffs, since made entering the lineup for the third game of the series against the Maple Leafs. Caufield threw eight shots on goal in five matches versus Toronto, and he’s already surpassed that amount through three games against Winnipeg.

“I wasn’t the only one that wanted to shoot more,” Caufield answered when asked prior to game three.

“We talked about it. I had a discussion with him really quick. Every time you have a chance to shoot at this time of the year, chances are rare so you need to take it. The way he shoots the puck, that’s a weapon he’s got, so I told him to use it,” the coach said. The Canadiens rookie took 11 shots on goal in the last two matches.

“Cole has been playing great. We know how deadly of a shooter he is, he’s getting chances, and one is bound to go in for sure. He knows when to make the pass, and he did a great one there for me,” Suzuki said.

Caufield has recorded two assists in this best-of-seven series. “The kid has got some great instincts, puts himself in position to create offence and thinks the game real well and at a high level. I’m not worried about him,” Staal said.

The question marks around Caufield has been his play without the puck, and the 20-year old hasn’t been a liability in the defensive zone.

“We’re happy with the way things are going with him. He’s a kid that wants to play the right way, he’s paying attention to details, he’s asking questions,” said the coach. “He shows that he’s adapting, and learning quick.”

Scoring First

Montreal’s scored first in the last six games, and haven’t trailed since the start of game five against Toronto, which represents 376 minutes, and 14 seconds of total playing time. The current stretch is the fifth longest in NHL history, and it’s the first time that Montreal’s gone six straight games without trailing at any point in the postseason since 1978, when they went on to win the Stanley Cup.

“As a team, I think we’re playing the right way when we have the lead. We aren’t forcing anything and we’re putting the puck in good positions. [Ducharme’s] big on puck management. We’ve done a great job of that with the lead. It’s been a big key for us,” Suzuki evaluated.

In this postseason, Montreal’s won seven of eight games where they scored first. Carey Price’s performance has been key in preserving the lead. “He gives our group a lot of confidence. He’s playing inspired hockey,” Ducharme said.

Looking to Sweep

Montreal will be looking to sweep the series on Monday night in front of their fans. The Bell Centre’s crowd has brought energy to the home team.

“I know it’s only 2,500, but they’re a loud 2,500, and they give us a lot of energy, and you’re able to build some shifts together,” Gallagher said.

The fourth win is always the hardest one, ask the Maple Leafs. “We know what it’s like to have our backs to the wall. We learned from the first round,” said the coach.

“I’ve been in this League long enough and played in enough playoff series to know that the hardest game to win is the last one. When you get a team up against the ropes, they’re usually able to find a little bit of desperation,” Gallagher added.

“You always feel good when you’re winning. It’s been a lot of fun coming to the rink and getting to play here, especially. We have a lot of confidence. We just have to keep that going for one more against these guys,” Suzuki said.

The Canadiens may have to attempt to close out the series without Jeff Petry after he left Sunday’s game with an upper body injury, and will be evaluated on Monday.

The coaching staff has been relying on the top four defencemen to get the job done. If Petry can’t play, I expect Brett Kulak moving up to second paid, and potentially Joel Edmundson or Ben Chiarot moved to the right side.

Is this the situation that will get Alexander Romanov into the lineup? With the team holding a commanding lead at home, it would be the perfect scenario to give the rookie his opportunity.

Canadiens Connection podcast

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By Chris G., Senior Writer
All Habs Hockey Magazine
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