MONTREAL, Quebec – The league-leading Montreal Canadiens remain perfect at home.
Regrettably on this night, it came at the expense of the Winnipeg Jets.
David Desharnais led the way offensively with a goal and an assist, while rookie goaltender Mike Condon made 15 saves in a 5-1 victory Sunday at Bell Centre.
Chris Thorburn broke the shutout with 6:03 left in the third period, finishing off a pretty feed from Mark Scheifele for the Jets’ lone marker.
Tomas Fleischmann (2), Paul Byron and Lars Eller rounded out the scoring for the Habs.
Ondrej Pavelec made 16 saves in a relief appearance after Michael Hutchinson was pulled early in the second period.
“We didn’t really have any part of our game going tonight,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.
“We just weren’t very good, start to finish.”
For the first time since 1979-80, the Habs have won their first five home games.
The Canadiens opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at 6:45. As the Jets failed to gain entry at the offensive line, Byron gobbled up a loose puck, burst in alone and deked to his forehand, guiding a shot around the right pad of the goaltender.
The Jets had three power plays in the opening 10 minutes, but could only muster a single shot.
“You could sense a bit of frustration after a couple of those power plays,” Bryan Little said.
The Habs took a 2-0 lead with 3:34 to play as Desharnais drove wide and put the puck on net. Hutchinson made the initial save with his left pad, but Fleischmann was there to deposit the rebound in the blue paint.
Tempers flared in the final few minutes as Dustin Byfuglien caught Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher with a huge open-ice hit. The 5-foot-9, 184-pound Gallagher was thankfully uninjured after losing his lid and plummeting to the ice. A kerfuffle ensued, and several penalties were assessed to both teams – including an elbowing minor to Byfuglien – at 18:36.
Shots on goal were even at six apiece after one period of play, but the next two all but sealed it.
Just 35 seconds into the middle frame, Fleischmann flew down his off wing and rifled a shot short side, putting the home side up by three.
It became a 4-0 lead just two-and-a-half minutes later as a driving Desharnais potted a loose puck in the goalmouth – a sequence all-too-similar to Fleischmann’s first
That was the end of the night for Hutchinson, who allowed four goals on nine shots.
“This building is really hard to win in, especially now with how they’re playing,” Mark Stuart said. “You have to come out and play a really, really good game in order to beat them. We were off in the first, but even going into the second (down) 2-0, that’s a tough hill to climb, but we feel we had a chance if we came out hard.
“That didn’t happen.
“We feel like we can match them, but we might have respected their speed a little too much at the start. We were on our heels a little bit. You’ve got to find that balance between playing positionally well, and staying up and keeping your gap on them. I thought we gave them a little too much room at the start.”
Eller put the Habs up five-nil with a fortuitous power-play goal late in the second, as Andrei Markov’s point shot deflected off his foot, off the far post and in for his fourth of the season.
“I wouldn’t say we were intimidated, but we definitely backed off from how much speed they did have,” Little said. “Give them credit. They came at us all night, made us work for every shot on goal we had, and made us pay for the mistakes we made.”
The Jets are back in action on Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puck drop is at 6:00pm CT and you can catch it live coast-to-coast on Sportsnet.
“We’ve got to be a hell of a lot better in Toronto,” Maurice said.
LATE HITS: Andrew Copp did not play tonight due to an undisclosed injury. He is officially day to day.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com