An impressive performance by Canadiens in 4-3 win over Avalanche

Habs goalie Jake Allen gets his first win since Oct. 28 and Juraj Slafkovsky scores his first goal at Bell Centre since Nov. 5, 2022.

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There was a lot to like about the Canadiens’ 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche Monday night at the Bell Centre.

Juraj Slafkovsky scored his first goal in 10 games, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard scored his first goal this season, Cole Caufield scored his fifth goal in the last nine games and Joel Armia scored the winner at 15:50 of the third period — his seventh goal after starting the season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

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The power play went 2-for-2 and goalie Jake Allen won his first game since Oct. 28 as the Canadiens beat one of the best teams in the NHL and improved their record to 18-18-7.

Ross Colton, Cale Makar and Devon Toews scored for the Avalanche as their record fell to 28-13-3.

So, what did Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki like most about this game?

“Probably just our group effort,” he said after picking up two assists. “Got some goals from other lines. When we were out there against (Nathan) MacKinnon’s line, all five of us were doing a real good job. They got some chances, it’s going to happen, but just our five-man game was really good tonight against them. It definitely made a difference in the game.”

The Avalanche’s No. 1 line of MacKinnon between former Canadien Jonathan Drouin and Mikko Rantanen failed to score. MacKinnon had a team-high seven shots, but couldn’t beat Allen, who was 1-8-1 in his previous 10 starts while his teammates scored 18 goals combined during that span.

“Obviously, you want to win every game,” Allen said after making 32 saves as the Avalanche outshot the Canadiens 35-34. “I’m a realist in every sense of the word in my life. I understand that there’s going to be stretches like this and there’s going to be stretches where I feel like I can’t stop a beach ball but I can’t lose a game. I’ve had that in my career … I had that last year even. I feel fairly solid about my game … it’s just been tough to find a way to win. To be able to get it here tonight at home is a good feeling.”

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It was also a good feeling for Slafkovsky to score his first goal at the Bell Centre since Nov. 5, 2022. Six of Slafkovsky’s nine career NHL goals have come on the road, including his first four this season.

“Of course, it gets frustrating if you don’t score for a while,” Slafkovsky said after banging in a rebound of a Suzuki shot on a power play to tie the score 1-1 at 7:17 of the first period. “But I’m just trying to smile every day and come with a smile to the rink and hopefully the next day is the day.”

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Slafkovsky’s last three goals have all come with him standing right in front of the net. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is hard to move when he decides to go there and the 19-year-old is doing it much more often now.

“Just trying to position myself to be in a good spot for a rebound and retrieve pucks,” he said. “I feel like it’s getting better. Definitely not there yet, but getting better.”

Slafkovsky is also starting to shoot the puck more. He led the Canadiens with six shots, tying his career high.

After Makar put the Avalanche up 2-1 at 1:01 of the second period, Harvey-Pinard scored his first goal in the 16 games he has played this season, driving to the net with the puck and then banging his own rebound past goalie Alexandar Georgiev.

Montreal Canadiens' Rafael Harvey-Pinard skates by the side of the net with his stick in the corner in front of the Avalanche goalie
Canadiens left wing Rafael Harvey-Pinard (49) scores his first NHL goal against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during the second period. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Caufield’s power-play goal at 1:52 of the third period gave the Canadiens a 3-2 lead as he beat Georgiev with a wrist shot high to the glove side. Caufield has had a tendency to shoot high to the short side and he seemed to catch Georgiev by surprise going to the far side this time. It was Caufield’s 13th goal of the season, moving him one ahead of Suzuki for the team lead.

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Toews tied it up again when he scored at 9:37 of the third period. Allen made a couple of huge saves after that on MacKinnon, shortly before Armia scored the game-winner on an impressive individual effort. Armia fought off a couple of defenders for a loose puck in front of the net and then backhanded it behind Georgiev while falling to the ice.

Joel Armia lunges at the puck in front of the Colorado net
Montreal Canadiens right wing Joel Armia (40) scores the game winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during 3rd period NHL action at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Monday Jan. 15, 2024. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

There are now only three players on the Canadiens with more goals than Armia: Caufield (13), Suzuki (12) and Sean Monahan (11). Armia has only played in 27 of the team’s 43 games.

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Head coach Martin St. Louis said he has liked Armia’s attitude all season.

“He went down to Laval and he was a great leader down there and played extremely well and came back up and sat in a chair that was available for him,” St. Louis said. “He’s been part of our (penalty) kill … I think he’s been killing extremely well for us. I think he’s having fun. He’s smiling and he’s playing some really good hockey right now. A lot for Army is just that consistency and we’re getting that right now and I hope it keeps going.”

The Canadiens will be back in action Wednesday in New Jersey against the Devils (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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