Hidden Game: Canadiens come out on top in battle of bottom-dwellers

Alex Newhook’s two goals spark Montreal to a much-needed 5-1 win over floundering Kraken in Seattle.

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Something had to give.

The Canadiens had lost four consecutive games while the terrible Seattle Kraken were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. And both teams were struggling on offence. How bad are the Kraken? And we’re not talking about those hideous uniforms they wore Sunday night. In March alone, the team has now had six one-goal games and been shut out once.

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The Canadiens, meanwhile, had been held to two goals or less in six of their last seven.

But now we know: As bad as are the Canadiens, the Kraken is worse.

Great moments in NHL draft history: Juraj Slafkovsky, the first overall pick last season, is a regular with the Canadiens, has produced points in seven consecutive games and plays on the team’s top line. Seattle’s Shane Wright, who thought he was going first overall? He has 19 goals and 41 points in 53 games — for the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds.

Maybe the time has come to trust Canadiens’ management?

Strange, but true (Part I): The Kraken produced 100 points last season while making the playoffs. And, with 289 goals, had the NHL’s fourth-most potent offence. This season, however, the team is 29th overall in offence with 185 goals in 70 games. And with largely the same players.

Great moments in coaching history: You might have noticed interim Canadiens head coach Trevor Letowski changed three of his four forward combinations. It obviously worked. Letowski is now 1-3 since replacing Martin St. Louis, who is on indefinite leave while tending to a family matter. The players presented him with the game puck following the match. The smile on Letowski’s face at the end of the game spoke volumes.

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A beach ball would have done better: Philipp Grubauer started in net for Seattle, allowed four goals on seven shots and was replaced by Joey Daccord.

News you need (Part I): With a goal and two assists in the opening period, Canadiens’ defenceman Kaiden Guhle produced his first career three-point period. And he’s only 22 years old. “Honestly,I have no idea,” Guhle told RDS during the first intermission. “Just seemed like everything I shot or passed went into the net. But, honestly, it didn’t feel like that was a great period for myself. It was a weird one for sure.”

News you need (Part II): This marked the first time in four games Montreal opened the scoring.

Milestone: With his assist in the first period, Slafkovsky tied Mario Tremblay for points by a Canadiens teenager in a single season. Slafkovsky now has 15 goals and 39 points in 70 games.

Play Pezzetta: Not only did Michael Pezzetta drill Ryker Evans behind the Kraken net on his opening shift, his effective forechecking eventually resulted in the Canadiens’ second goal. Evans didn’t return after suffering a lower-body injury in the period. In only 10:18 of ice time, Pezzetta had an assist, four hits and blocked two shots. Not a bad night’s work.

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Who cares about shots on goal?: At one point in the opening period, the shots were 9-2 in Seattle’s favour. And the Kraken trailed 2-0.

Strange, but true (Part II): Following 20 minutes, Guhle and Mike Matheson were both plus-4. Seattle’s Will Borgen and Eeli Tolvanen were both minus-3.

Dumb penalty: Alex Newhook, who scored twice in the opening period, took a hooking minor in the offensive zone early in the middle frame, negating a Canadiens’ power play.

Great moments in coach’s challenges: After the Kraken scored in the opening minute of the second period, giving the team some life, it perked up some more when Matty Beniers scored with Newhook in the penalty box. But Letowski quickly challenged. A video review determined Beniers put himself offside on the play. We’ll never know what might have transpired had the Kraken narrowed the deficit to 4-2.

Great moments in politeness: We’re not sure whether it was Jonny Murray or Trent Knorr, but rink-side microphones picked up one of the linesmen in the second period saying: “Offside. Thank you.”

Shift of the night: In the 14th minute of the second period while the Canadiens were shorthanded, Matheson created a turnover, intercepted a pass, outraced Tomas Tatar to produce a breakaway and then deked Daccord for Montreal’s fifth goal, putting this game out of reach. It also marked the 45th goal this season by a Canadiens defenceman.

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That close: In the 16th minute of the period, Newhook hit the post with a high shot. The Canadiens hardly required a sixth goal at this juncture but, had Newhook scored, it would have been the first three-goal game of his career.

Strange, but true (Part III): Through two periods, Matheson was plus-5. Newhook and Jesse Ylönen both had three shots.

Next time, decline the penalty: The Kraken went 0-for-4 on the power-play.

Nice bounce back: Canadiens’ goalie Cayden Primeau allowed five goals in Calgary on March 16 to begin this road trip. But against the Kraken, he made 36 stops for a save percentage of .973.

They said it: “Honestly, it’s tough sometimes to play with a lead that big,” Guhle told reporters in Seattle following the game. “I felt like I wasn’t at my best in Vancouver. I wanted to have a bounce-back game. I felt like I did that. I felt like the team did that. We needed a game like that to lift the weight off our shoulders.”

“That one stung a little bit more than most posts,” Newhook told reporters in Seattle post-game. “It happens. That’s hockey. Maybe I’ll find a hat-trick another night.”

“For me it’s a little bit awkward, just because of the circumstances,” Letowski told the media in Seattle. “I was the guy that was the head coach, but it was a real group effort. That’s why I feel a little uncomfortable about saying that’s my first NHL win as a head coach.”

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