Canadiens start the New Year with a 4-3 win over Stars in Dallas

End stretch of seven straight road games with a 3-3-1 record after giving up a goal only 11 seconds into first period.

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The first game of the New Year did not get off to a good start for the Canadiens.

The Stars scored only 11 seconds into Tuesday night’s game in Dallas after a bad giveaway by Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson.

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But if there’s one thing this rebuilding Canadiens team has shown with Martin St. Louis as head coach it’s that they don’t give up. They fought back and beat the Stars 4-3 to end a three-game losing streak.

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The Canadiens went ahead 4-1 and then hung on for the victory after the Stars scored twice in the last four minutes of the third period with goalie Scott Wedgewood on the bench for an extra attacker.

Nick Suzuki, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Cole Caufield scored for the Canadiens, who improved their record to 16-16-5.

Jamie Benn, Wyatt Johnston and Jason Robertson scored for the Stars, who fell to 22-10-4.

Samuel Montembeault, making back-to-back starts for the fifth time this season, made 30 saves as the Stars outshot the Canadiens 33-18, improving his record to 8-5-3 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

This ended a stretch of seven straight road games for the Canadiens and they finish with a 3-3-1 record. After Tuesday’s morning skate, St. Louis told reporters in Dallas that before starting this stretch of games, finishing it with a .500 record would have been considered a success.

When asked what his goals are now for 2024, St. Louis said it was to keep the passion for what the team is trying to do and the mindset to continue evolving and improving. He added that if that passion drops, attitude drops with it.

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“We know we’re on a good path and it’s to continue with our attitude,” St. Louis said.

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Caufield, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, was asked by reporters after the morning skate if he can still feel St. Louis’s passion.

“Oh, yeah,” Caufield said with a smile. “Every day.

“I think as a group we’re coming and we’re knocking on the door,” Caufield added. “It’s close. We can see it. That’s kind of what’s driving us right now.”

Suzuki’s goal at 4:14 of the first period was his second in two games and his team-leading 12th of the season to tie the score 1-1. Juraj Slafkovsky picked up an assist, giving the 19-year-old 2-5-7 totals in the last eight games and 4-10-14 totals for the season.

Guhle put the Canadiens up 2-1 at 9:46 of the first period with his third goal of the season and Harris made it 3-1 at 6:54 of the second period with his first goal. With those two goals, the Canadiens now have 30 goals from their defencemen this season, tied with the Colorado Avalanche for most in the league.

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Caufield scored for the third straight game at 6:45 of the third period on a power play. It was his 11th goal of the season and at that point it looked like the game was over. But it was far from that.

Johnston scored at 16:12 and Robertson scored at 18:00 while goalie Wedgewood watched from the Dallas bench. The Stars came very close to tying the score in the final seconds, but Montembeault saved the victory.

“There’s not too many times where you’re six-on-five for six minutes,” Suzuki told reporters in Dallas after the game about the two late goals. “I think we could do a better job. But we got the win and that’s the most important. Defensively we were really good tonight against a really good offensive team.”

Suzuki had points in six of the seven road games, finishing with 4-5-9 totals during that span. He leads the Canadiens in scoring with 12-22-34 totals in 37 games.

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Josh Anderson left for the Canadiens’ locker room midway through the third period with what appeared to be a lower-body injury and didn’t return. Early in the period, Anderson was bleeding after taking a high-stick to the face from Benn, who received a four-minute penalty.

“It’s kind of a fresh start,” Guhle told reporters in Dallas after the morning skate about the first game of 2024. “We didn’t finish the way we wanted the last year (a 4-3 loss to the Lightning in Tampa on New Year’s Eve). Just sticking with it and keeping that same passion, same fight that we have. I think we’re close. We’re playing good hockey. I don’t think the games that we’ve lost have been bad games at all. I think there’s a lot of good things that can come from those. So stay on the right track … it would really nice to get a win tonight to (start) 2024 and head back home.”

With the win, the Canadiens now have a 9-7-3 record on the road and they are 7-9-2 at home.

The Canadiens were flying back to Montreal after the game, scheduled to arrive at 3:15 a.m. They will be back in action Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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