Canadiens end four-game losing streak with much-needed win at Anaheim

Alex Newhook paced the Canadiens with two goals, including the winner at 16:40 of the third period.

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Perhaps Martin St. Louis should read his team the riot act more often.

The Canadiens head coach criticized his players for being too soft last Saturday, following his team’s defeat at Boston — Montreal’s fourth consecutive loss.

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The Canadiens played a more inspired game on Wednesday night, edging the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 at the Honda Center as Montreal’s five-game road trip continued.

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Alex Newhook paced the Canadiens with two goals, including the winner at 16:40 of the third period. Newhook, acquired in a trade from Colorado June 27, before he was scheduled to become a free agent, produced his second two-goal effort this season. He has six goals and 12 points in 19 games.

A pair of defencemen, Mike Matheson and Kaiden Guhle, also scored for the Canadiens, who improved to 8-9-2, but won for only the third time in 11 games. It also marked Montreal’s first regulation win at Anaheim since March 2004 and ended a seven-game losing streak in the building.

“I loved our compete level and wanting to get on top of them,” St. Louis said. “It showed early in the game. There were a lot of positives in this game. We found a way to win it. Could it have gone the other way? Absolutely. This team needed a win tonight and we found a way.

“There were definitely good intentions out there tonight,” he said. “I feel like we’ve been a bit of a fragile group lately. We were trying to take care of the emotions throughout the night, throughout the game. Sometimes you want to help so much but sometimes less is more.”

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Mason McTavish paced the Ducks with two goals, giving him 10 this season. He also added an assist for his fourth career three-point game. Frank Vatrano, Anaheim’s leading scorer, notched his 13th goal. Anaheim’s in the midst of a four-game losing streak and has been held to seven goals over that span.

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Montreal started well, scoring twice within 38 seconds to take a 2-0 lead before seven minutes had elapsed, the goals coming from Newhook and Guhle.

McTavish scored his first on the power-play in the opening minute of the second period; Matheson restored Montreal’s two-goal lead 56 seconds later.

But after McTavish scored at the six-minute mark, followed by Vetrano’s goal at 11:31 of the third period, it appeared these teams were headed for overtime.

That all changed in the blink of an eye. Jake Evans produced a turnover, skated down the right side and delivered a perfect pass to Newhook, an open net staring him in the face and goaltender John Gibson unable to slide over in time. It might have been one of the easiest goals in Newhook’s career.

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With both teams serving simultaneous minor penalties at the time, there was also more open ice.

“It wasn’t perfect, but to find a way to win was huge for us,” Newhook said. “We’ve got to carry it with us into the next few games.

“To get the four-on-four there, it was an opportunity for someone to score. It’s definitely a relief (to win). We’re trying to push the right way here. It sucks losing. Everyone hates losing, especially in this room. To get back on the right track’s huge. We have to keep it rolling.”

While the Canadiens generated 15 shots through the first period, they could only direct 13 in total at Gibson over the final 40 minutes.

Samuel Montembeault kept Montreal in the game, especially in the third period. Of the 30 shots he stopped, his most incredible save came in the seventh minute of that frame. The Ducks had a two-on-one break, but Montembeault slid over to rob Vatrano with his glove hand.

Montembeault had lost his last four starts against Anaheim.

“Late in the game when they had their push, for him to weather the storm for us and a couple of those big, huge saves, the bench gets up for it,” Newhook said. “It gave us an extra push for sure and it helped us get through that one with a win.”

The game marked the NHL debut of defenceman Jayden Struble, recalled on Monday from Laval. He registered one hit in 11:20 of ice time as St. Louis went with a shortened bench in the third period, desperate for a win.

The Canadiens are in the midst of playing three games in four days. The road trip continues Friday afternoon at San Jose against the struggling Sharks. San Jose, last in the Pacific Division, was drubbed, 7-1, at Seattle on Wednesday and has an NHL-worst 3-15-1 record. Montreal must take advantage.

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