Joel Armia gets winning goal as Canadiens beat Blue Jackets 4-2

Habs finish five-game road stretch with 3-2-0 record, improving to 10-10-2 on season, and will face Panthers Thursday night at Bell Centre.

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The Canadiens had reason to smile on their flight back to Montreal after Wednesday night’s game in Columbus.

Nobody would have been smiling more than Joel Armia.

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Armia scored the winning goal at 17:03 of the third period, deflecting in a point shot from Mike Matheson, and Gustav Lindström added an empty-netter two minutes later as the Canadiens beat the Blue Jackets 4-2 at Nationwide Arena.

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Alex Newhook and Cole Caufield also scored for the Canadiens, while Patrick Laine and Yegor Chinakhov scored for the Blue Jackets.

This was the fifth straight road game for the Canadiens, who finished the stretch with a 3-2-0 record, improving to 10-10-2 on the season, while the Blue Jackets fell to 7-13-4.

The Canadiens called Armia up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket for the second time this season ahead of Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles, but the 30-year-old forward was made a healthy scratch for that game. Armia now has two goals in the seven games he has played with the Canadiens, along with 6-3-9 totals in eight games with the Rocket.

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“It feels great every time you score,” Armia told reporters in Columbus after the game. “Just going to take all the good things away from this game and move forward.”

Armia, playing on the third line with Sean Monahan and Josh Anderson, finished the game with three shots in 16:26 of ice time and had a plus-2 differential.

The Canadiens will be back in action Thursday when the Florida Panthers visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). It’s the first of four straight home games and the Canadiens will play seven of their next eight games at the Bell Centre, where they have a 5-6-0 record. Goalie Cayden Primeau flew back to Montreal early on Wednesday and will start against the Panthers after Samuel Montembeault made 26 saves in Columbus as the Canadiens outshot the Blue Jackets 31-28.

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The Canadiens appear to be using a three-goalie rotation now with Montembeault, Primeau and Jake Allen. Montembeault improved his record to 5-3-1 with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

The Canadiens got off to a sloppy start defensively against the Blue Jackets and were outshot 13-9 in the first period, which included two terrible giveaways by Caufield in the defensive zone. After the game, Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis noted that his team had only one turnover in the first 10-12 minutes of the game, but then had six or seven more before the first period ended.

The score was still 0-0 after the first period and the Canadiens got off to a slow start in the second period with Laine opening the scoring at the 3:40 mark when the teams were playing four-on-four. The Canadiens got caught on a bad line change and Laine blew past defencemen Matheson and Justin Barron before slipping the puck past Montembeault.

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Newhook evened the score at 7:36 of the second period less than 15 seconds after he had hit the post. Chinakhov put the Blue Jackets up 2-1 at 9:47 of the second period after a failed clearing attempt in the defensive zone by defenceman Kaiden Guhle. Caufield tied the score again at 14:08 of the second period, banging in a rebound of a Christian Dvorak shot after Juraj Slafkovsky had made a nice breakout pass from the defensive zone.

Newhook and Caufield are now tied for the team lead with seven goals each. Caufield has 2-1-3 totals in the last three games and has 7-11-18 totals this season, tying him with Nick Suzuki (6-12-18) for the team lead in points. Matheson had two assists against the Blue Jackets and is third in team scoring with 5-12-17 totals. Slafkovsky has 1-4-5 totals in the last seven games.

Caufield also becomes only the fifth player in Canadiens history with 60 career goals in less than 150 games. Caufield did it in 145 games, while Joe Benoit did it in 135, Jean Béliveau in 132, Maurice Richard in 83 and Howie Morenz in 74.

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St. Louis had praise for Armia after the game.

“Army’s been a pro,” the coach told reporters in Columbus. “He’s gone down to Laval and played well down there and produced. Tonight he gets an opportunity and plays a good game.”

While the Canadiens return home with a winning record on this five-game road stretch, they have a 5-8-0 record in November before wrapping up the month against the Panthers. Two of their five wins this month were in overtime and one was in a shootout.

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“It’s such a hard league,” St. Louis told reporters in Columbus. “You can’t expect we’re going to get it done with four, five, six, 10 guys. It’s a group decision and we need everybody on board and we had that tonight. … I’m proud of the result tonight, the (road) trip as well.

“The last game of a trip isn’t always easy,” the coach added. “As great as we feel tonight about the way we played, we got to start all over tomorrow.”

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