MONTREAL, QC - Bienvenue dans La Belle Province, once again, to the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton and Montreal met last Tuesday after having three matchups postponed due to the National Hockey League's COVID-19 Protocol when a few members of the Canadiens tested positive to cause a team shutdown. Montreal cruised to a 4-0 home victory in the first of three make-up matches to collect a third win against Edmonton in 2020-21.
The Canadiens were well-rested and recovered for that Tuesday night clash while the Oilers were still finding their legs after experiencing a five-day Montreal layover then being forced to play three games in four nights.
"We really didn't play very well," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "Not a lot of juice in our game last time we were in here. It's good to come back and hopefully, we'll recognize that we have to be a lot better if we expect to win."
Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored 18 seconds after the puck dropped and Artturi Lehkonen padded the lead less than five minutes in as the Canadiens limited the Oilers to 17 shots on goal.
This time around, Oilers players feel rejuvenated after adjusting to schedule changes and are ready for a bounce-back performance after beating the Calgary Flames 3-2 on Friday.
"We've wrapped our heads around the changing schedule and we're good to go," defenceman Tyson Barrie said pre-game. "We were disappointed in ourselves in that game but have since moved on. Now all you can do is pick things out of it that made them successful to try to stop that and learn things we can do to beat them."
Only 18 Oilers games remain on the docket and despite many schedule updates forthcoming, the North Division playoff picture is developing.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Oilers and Canadiens have secured the top four spots in the division and continue creating separation with the clubs on the outside looking in. It's still too early to tell but entirely possible for the Oilers to face the Habs in the opening round of the '20-21 post-season.
"It's a great stretch for us to prepare for the playoffs," forward Alex Chiasson, who won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, said. "The four or five weeks before heading into that, you want your team to feel good so when the playoffs start, in all aspects, you're ready to go."
The Canadiens have been a handful for the Oilers this campaign having won three out of four meetings but Edmonton did blank them 3-0 on Feb. 11 when Mike Smith posted a 38-save clean sheet.
"You take some motivation out of the ones where you didn't play very well and you look at some of the things you did very well when you won," Tippett said of the season series with Montreal.
"You use a little bit of both."
Smith's puck handling provided support for Oilers defencemen and disrupted Montreal's forecheck. Tippett confirmed Smith would get the call on Monday.
"I'd be lying to say he's not a factor there in helping your team get out of your own end by spending less time there," Tippett said.
Tippett also declared he would be rolling with the same player personnel that got the job done on Friday. That means defender Caleb Jones will stay in the mix on the blueline and Dominik Kahun will slot in upfront.
"We're looking for a little bit of a rebound game here," Tippett added. "I think our team will be better tonight."
Connor McDavid tallied the tie-breaking goal at 7:01 of the third period in a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday, securing the Oilers 23rd win of the season and 47th point. Edmonton was scheduled to host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday but the game was postponed due to the National Hockey League COVID-19 Protocol.
McDavid (22G, 42A) continues to pace the NHL in scoring with 64 points while running mate Leon Draisaitl (19G, 37A) is second with 56. On the back end, Darnell Nurse and Arizona Coyotes defender Jakob Chychrun are tied for the lead-League in defencemen goal-scoring with 12 markers apiece. Tyson Barrie is tied for third in points among defencemen with 32.
In goal, Mike Smith has backstopped the Oilers with a 13-3-1 record, 2.39 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and two shutouts.
Canadiens Team Scope
The Montreal Canadiens got doubled up by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, losing 6-3 to have a three-game winning streak snapped. The Canadiens are fourth in the North Division with 41 points and a .603 points percentage through 34 games.
Montreal forward Tyler Toffoli is the team leader in goals and points with 19 and 28, respectively. Rearguard Jeff Petry trails Toffoli in points by one with 27 while Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar are tied for third with 23.
Netminder Carey Price is 11-6-5 on the year with a 2.70 GAA and .902 S%. Backup Jake Allen is 5-3-4, sporting a 2.23 GAA and .922 S%.
Monday's game marks the fifth of nine meetings between the Oilers and Canadiens in the 2020-21 season. Edmonton is 1-3-0 versus Montreal, being outscored 12-5.
Tyson Barrie (1G, 1A) and McDavid (2A) lead the Oilers with two points over four games against the Canadiens this season. Gallagher (1G, 3A) and Phillip Danault (4A) top the Habs with four points each.
Smith won his only '20-21 start against Montreal, posting a 38-save shutout. Mikko Koskinen is 0-3-0 vs. MTL this season with a 4.04 GAA and .882 S%. Habs goalie Price has two wins against the Oilers this season, stopping 51 of 52 shots for a .981 save percentage.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers rank 2nd on the power play (26.5%) and 19th on the penalty kill (78%). ... Edmonton is 5th in goals for with 125 and 5th in goals for per game, averaging 3.29. ... The Oilers are 11th in the League with a plus-16 goal differential. ... McDavid is 1st in the NHL with a 1.68 points per game percentage and Draisaitl is 2nd at 1.47. ...
The Canadiens are 14th on the PP (21.9%) and 25th on the PK (76.1%). ... Montreal averages 33.4 shots per game, which is 3rd-most in the League. ... Danault owns a 52.36 faceoff percentage. ... MTL is 7-6-2 at the Bell Centre. ... The Habs have allowed 91 goals against this season, which is tied for seventh-fewest in the NHL.
OILERS - Slater Koekkoek (upper body) is on LTIR; Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on LTIR.
CANADIENS - Ben Chiarot (hand) is day-to-day; Joel Armia (COVID-19 protocol) is on IR;