Canadiens Game Day: Corey Perry can't do it alone as Habs lose to Leafs

Veteran does his best to fill Brendan Gallagher's skates, scoring both goals, while goalie Jake Allen plays well in 3-2 loss to Toronto.

Article content

The Canadiens missed Brendan Gallagher more than Carey Price in Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

With Gallagher and Price both out of the lineup due to injuries, the Canadiens came out flat and were dominated early in the game by the Leafs, who took a 1-0 lead when Auston Matthews scored only 54 seconds after the puck dropped. Corey Perry tied it up at the 2:15 mark and the Canadiens hung out to keep the score 1-1 after the first period, thanks in large part to goalie Jake Allen, who made 12 saves in the first 20 minutes.

Price has been listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while the Canadiens announced Wednesday afternoon that Gallagher has been placed on long-term injured reserve and will be out for at least six weeks after fracturing his thumb in Monday night’s 3-2 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre.

The Leafs went up 3-1 on third-period goals by TJ Brodie and Zach Hyman Wednesday night before Perry scored his second goal of the game with 2:15 left on the clock and Allen on the bench for an extra attacker.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Perry also drew both penalties the Maple Leafs took and logged a season-high 18:18 of ice time, doing his best to provide the spark that Gallagher normally brings to the team. Unfortunately, Perry didn’t get enough help.

The 35-year-old winger now has nine goals in 29 games after starting the season on the taxi squad and not dressing for seven games. Tyler Toffoli (19), Gallagher (14) and Josh Anderson (14) are the only three Canadiens forwards with more goals than Perry.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“It’s kind of what I’ve done my whole career is just get in around the net,” said Perry, who now has 386 career goals. “I’m playing with some good players and there’s some good players on this hockey team that can find you. I’m feeling confident and just continue to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Perry’s nine goals are as many as Phillip Danault, Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen (with three each) have scored combined. Perry has two more goals than Nick Suzuki, four more than Jesperi Kotkaniemi and seven more than Jonathan Drouin, who is tied with Anderson as the team’s highest-paid forward with a $5.5-million salary-cap hit this season.

Perry is earning US$750,000.

Allen said the Canadiens can’t use missing Gallagher as an excuse for their lack of energy to start the game.

“That’s an excuse we won’t use,” he said. “We’re going to miss Gally dearly. No question. It’s unfortunate the injury that happened to him. He’s the heart and soul and the engine of this team. But you always need an engine. You got to find a way to find one and we’re going to find that collectively as a group.

“It was our first game without him tonight … definitely a big part of this loss,” added Allen, who now has a 5-4-4 record with a 2.30 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. “But this is an opportunity for guys to step up and play well and fill his shoes. He’s a heart-and-soul Canadien and this is another chance for someone else to fill his shoes until he comes back for us.”

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Perry can’t do it alone.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Drouin misses on breakaway

While Drouin leads the Canadiens with 19 assists, he has now gone 18 games without a goal and has only one in the last 30 games.

Drouin had a breakaway in the final minute of the second period but was stopped by Leafs goalie Jack Campbell, who improved his record this season to 10-0-0 with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. Campbell is the first goalie in Leafs history to start a season with 10 straight wins.

Drouin admitted the fact he has only two goals is starting to weigh on him. The 26-year-old scored a career-high 21 goals with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016-17 before the Canadiens acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenceman Mikhail Sergachev.

“I don’t mind my game, I don’t mind how I’m playing,” Drouin said. “But it is weighing on me where when I have a chance maybe I tighten my stick a little too much and try to score too much. It’s going to happen, it’s going to come. It’s something I obviously think about, every player would. I just got to put it past me and keep shooting pucks. I think I’ve been shooting pucks more and hopefully one goes in. But I got to bear down. I got to look at how Corey scores, too, get around the net a little bit more.”

Drouin had two shots on goal against the Leafs in 15:49 of ice time and was minus-1. He is a team-worst minus-4 for the season.

As for Gallagher being out of the lineup, Drouin said: “He’s scored some timely goals for us and we’re going to have to find guys — and I’m going to have to be one of them — that scores more goals. I’ll put that pressure on myself … I already have. I got to produce more and I think it’s going to be a team effort more than just one guy trying to cover for Gally’s time when he’s not going to be here.”

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Riding Perry

The only Canadiens forward who had more than Perry’s 18:18 of ice time was Suzuki, who logged 19:36.

Perry is only averaging 12:56 of ice time per game this season and head coach Dominique Ducharme said the fact he pulled Allen from the net so early boosted Perry’s ice time.

“Tonight we pulled the goalie early and he’s been great net-front,” Ducharme said about Perry. “Every time we’ve pulled (the goalie) he’s been provoking something. So, obviously, he’s the first guy I’m thinking about when I pull the goalie. So I think there’s part of that that came into play with his minutes tonight.”

When asked if he thinks Perry can handle an increase in ice time moving forward, Ducharme said: “The way he plays the game he doesn’t spend his energy in bad places. I think he’s pretty smart. Obviously, 18 might be too high, but it’s not the kind of minutes he’s going to be playing. I think he can handle something around 15.”

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Playoff preview?

The Canadiens remain in fourth place in the all-Canadian North Division with a 17-10-9 record, while the Maple Leafs are in first place with a 27-10-3 record. That means there’s a good chance these two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

“They won the first period,” Perry said when asked how the two teams match up. “I thought we outplayed them in the second period. For half the third they probably outplayed us … three-quarters of the third. So it’s close. It’s a bounce here and there.

“You look at their second goal when it went off of two players and right to an open guy and he banged it in,” Perry added. “That’s hockey and that’s how it goes in the playoffs. It’s a bounce and that’s the hockey game. I think we’re right there. We got to continue to push a little bit harder and get a little bit better each and every night.”

The Canadiens have a 1-3-1 record in their five games against the Leafs this season. The two teams will play each other five more times during the regular season.

The Canadiens will be back in action Thursday night when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre and there’s a very good chance Allen will be back in goal.

“No problem for me,” he said. “I’ve done it lots of times … a lot of experiences. That’s part of my role, just be ready when called upon. I’ve done it lots in the past. I’ve played three games in two-and-a-half days many times. It’s a challenge, no question. But if I’m going tomorrow, no problem.”

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The forgotten goalie

Charlie Lindgren became the forgotten goalie after GM Marc Bergevin acquired Allen from the St. Louis Blues during the offseason and then signed the veteran to a two-year, US$5.75-million contract extension that takes him through the 2022-23 season.

Lindgren has been on the taxi squad since the beginning of the season, but hasn’t dressed for a game. Cayden Primeau, who was called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket after Price was injured in Monday’s game against the Oilers, dressed as Allen’s backup Wednesday night.

Lindgren has been kept busy at practices and morning skates.

“I have a big appreciation for Charlie,” Allen said. “Essentially, I came in here and sort of took his spot. In the way he’s handled it has just been unreal. He’s been so good to me and he’s such a good guy. I’ve never heard a complaint from him at all. It’s real easy to sit there if you’re not playing all year and complain — this sucks, it’s unfair, it is what it is. But he comes to work every day. And going out there at the end of practice when the players are shooting bar-in, bar-in, bar-in every time isn’t always fun. But he does it with a smile and a good attitude.

“That’s why he’s going to be a goalie in the league for a long time,” Allen added. “When his opportunity arises he’s going to be here and I think he’s a really good goalie. He’s proved that at the NHL level. He’s doing everything he possibly can to do it in the right way.”

The 27-year-old Lindgren is in the final season of his three-year, US$2.25-million contract that is a one-way deal, paying him an average of $750,000 per season. He can become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Some stats

The Canadiens outshot Toronto 34-32, won 56 per cent of the faceoffs and outhit the Leafs 20-12. Both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play.

Jeff Petry led the Canadiens in ice time with 25:58, followed by Shea Weber with 23:18 and Joel Edmundson with 21:01. Suzuki led the forwards with 19:36, followed by Perry with 18:18 and Tomas Tatar with 17:59.

Petry led the Canadiens with four shots, while Anderson, Toffoli and Perry had three each. Petry had a team-leading five hits, while Anderson, Toffoli and Edmundson had three each.

Eric Staal went 8-4 on faceoffs (67 per cent), Danault went 8-7 (53 per cent), Suzuki went 6-7 (46 per cent) and Jake Evans went 3-2 (60 per cent).

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Chiarot factor

Wednesday night’s game was the 12th for the Canadiens without Ben Chiarot since the defenceman fractured his right hand in a fight with the Vancouver Canucks’ J.T. Miller on March 10.

Chiarot’s injury forced Ducharme to juggle his defence pairings, splitting up Petry and Edmundson. Petry is now paired with Brett Kulak and Edmundson is with Weber.

In the 12 games without Chiarot in the lineup, Petry has 1-3-4 totals. In the first 25 games with Chiarot in the lineup, Petry had 10-14-24 totals.

Edmundson is a stay-at-home defenceman, while Kulak likes to rush the puck when he has an opportunity. When asked Wednesday morning if that might have had an impact on Petry’s reduced offensive numbers, Ducharme said: “We’ve seen him hit a few posts and things like that where maybe a few games before it would go post and in. I don’t think it’s holding him back. Obviously, when you see your partner jumping you need to cover for him, which maybe Kuly’s doing a little bit more than Eddie does. But, overall, I really liked (Petry’s) game against Edmonton Monday night. He was solid on both sides and picked his time to jump into the play.

“At times (points) aren’t the only things you can look at as a defenceman,” the coach added. “It’s more the chances you’re producing. So it’s not only about points.”

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The lines

Here’s how the Canadiens’ forward lines and defence pairings looked against the Leafs:

Tatar – Danault – Kotkaniemi
Drouin – Staal – Toffoli
Perry – Suzuki – Anderson
Byron – Evans – Lehkonen

Edmundson – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Romanov – Mete

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Armia update

The Canadiens’ Joel Armia remains on the NHL’s COVID-related absences list, but Ducharme said he is now out of quarantine. The coach added that now it’s a matter of Armia getting back into shape after testing positive for a COVID-19 variant on March 22, resulting in four Canadiens games being postponed.

“I think he’s doing pretty well,” Kotkaniemi said Tuesday when asked about his teammate and friend. “He hasn’t done much, of course. Now he just needs to get back into shape and hopefully he will be back with us soon.”

More On This Topic

  1. Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman roofs the puck past Canadiens goalie Jake Allen for what proved to be the winning goal in the third period Wednesday night in Toronto.

    Canadiens' lack of offensive punch proves costly in 3-2 loss to Leafs

  2. Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid goes by Montreal Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson during the second period at the Bell Centre on April 5, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Veterans bring expertise, positive impact to Canadiens

What’s next?

The Canadiens will be back in action Thursday night when they play the first of back-to-back games against the Jets at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens and Jets will play again Saturday night (7 p.m., SNE, SNW, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Next week, the Canadiens will play four games at the Bell Centre. The Leafs will be in town Monday (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN4, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), followed by back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Friday (6 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens will wrap up the week with an afternoon game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday (4 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers