The first game of the New Year didn’t get off to a good start for the Canadiens.
The Stars scored just 11 seconds into Tuesday night’s game in Dallas after a bad turnover by Canadiens defenseman Mike Matheson.
But if there’s one thing this rebuilding Canadiens team has shown with Martin St. Louis as head coach, it’s that they don’t give up. They fought back and beat the Stars 4-3 to end a three-game losing streak.
The Canadiens jumped out to a 4-1 lead and then held on for the win after the Stars scored twice in the final four minutes of the third period with goalie Scott Wedgewood on the bench as an extra attacker.
Nick Suzuki, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Cole Caufield scored for the Canadiens, who improved to 16-16-5.
Jamie Benn, Wyatt Johnston and Jason Robertson scored for the Stars, who fell to 22-10-4.
Samuel Montembeault, making consecutive starts for the fifth time this season, made 30 saves as the Stars outscored the Canadiens 33-18, improving their record to 8-5-3 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .903. savings percentage.
This ended a streak of seven consecutive road games for the Canadiens and they finish with a 3-3-1 record. After Tuesday’s morning skate, St. Louis told reporters in Dallas that before starting this streak of games, ending it with a .500 record would have been considered a success.
When asked what his goals are now for 2024, St. Louis said it was to maintain the passion for what the team is trying to do and the mindset to continue to evolve and improve. She added that if that passion decreases, the attitude decreases with it.
“We know we are on a good path and we must continue with our attitude,” St. Louis said.
Caufield, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, was asked by reporters after the morning skate if he can still feel the St. Louis passion.
“Oh, yeah,” Caufield said with a smile. “Every day.
“I think as a group we’ll come and knock on the door,” Caufield added. “It’s close. We can see it. That’s what’s driving us right now.”
Suzuki’s goal at 4:14 of the first period was his second in two games and his team-leading 12th of the season to tie the score at 1-1. Juraj Slafkovsky had an assist, giving the 19-year-old a 2-5-7 total in his last eight games and a 4-10-14 total for the season.
Guhle put the Canadiens up 2-1 at 9:46 of the first period with his third goal of the season and Harris made it 3-1 at 6:54 of the second period with his first goal. With those two goals, the Canadiens now have 30 goals from their defensemen this season, tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the most in the league.
Caufield scored for the third straight game at 6:45 of the third period on a power play. It was his 11th goal of the season and at that moment it seemed like the game was over. But it was far from that.
Johnston scored at 16:12 and Robertson scored at 18:00 as goalkeeper Wedgewood watched from the Dallas bench. The Stars came very close to tying the score in the final seconds, but Montembeault saved the victory.
“There aren’t many times where you’re six-on-five for six minutes,” Suzuki told reporters in Dallas after the game about the two late goals. “I think we could do a better job. But we got the victory and that is the most important thing. “Defensively we were really good tonight against a really good offensive team.”
Suzuki scored points in six of seven road games, finishing 4-5-9 overall during that span. He leads the Canadiens in scoring with totals of 12-22-34 in 37 games.
Josh Anderson went to the Canadiens locker room midway through the third period with what appeared to be a lower-body injury and did not return. Early in the period, Anderson was bleeding after taking a high stick to the face from Benn, who received a four-minute penalty.
“It’s kind of a new beginning,” Guhle told reporters in Dallas after the morning skate on the first game of 2024. “We didn’t finish the way we wanted to last year (a 4-3 loss to the Lightning in Tampa on New Year’s Eve). . Just keep going and keep the same passion, the same fight that we have. I think we are close. We’re playing good hockey. I don’t think the games we’ve lost have been bad at all. I think there are a lot of good things that can come from that. So stay on track… it would be really nice to get a win tonight to (start) 2024 and go home.”
With the win, the Canadiens now have a record of 9-7-3 on the road and 7-9-2 at home.
The Canadiens were flying back to Montreal after the game, scheduled to arrive at 3:15 am. They will return to action on Thursday when the Buffalo Sabers visit the Bell Center. (7:00 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
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