MONTREAL This is what the Montreal Canadiens neededa resilient and galvanizing win that got them six points clear of the Calgary Flames and four points back of the team they beat at the Bell Centre on Friday.
Because, lately, everything has conspired against the Canadiens achieving that outcome, from the mentally- and physically-taxing schedule to the injuries to key players forcing them to just manage the game, as coach Dominique Ducharme put it after Wednesdays loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, instead of just going out and grabbing it by the throat.
The Canadiens seemed prepared to do that on Friday, in spite of this being their 17th game in the last 30 days and in spite of having to play it without captain Shea Weber, starting goaltender Carey Price, heart-and-soul winger Brendan Gallagher and top-nine forwards Paul Byron, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Drouin. They came out in dominant fashion and forced the Winnipeg Jets back on their heels, notching 15 scoring chances.
Not only were they not rewarded, but Paul Stastny also capitalized on one of the few scoring chances the Jets had in the opening frame to make it 1-0.
The second period started and Canadiens leading scorer Tyler Toffoli missed an open look before Trevor Lewis stormed down the ice and made it 2-0 Jets.
A goal from Montreals Nick Suzuki narrowed the gap. A horrible gaff from teammate Erik Gustafsson, who whiffed on a faceoff drawn back his way and allowed the Jets to skate a 2-on-1 rush the length of the ice, widened it.
At 3-1 Jets, the Canadiens had every reason to throw in the towel.
A team that had scored more than two goals in just two of its last 13 games, one that had lost nine of them, wouldnt have been forgiven for doing so. But it wouldve been understandable if they did, with nothing going right and another game on deck Saturday.
Instead, the Canadiens fought back, Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia and Suzuki scored the rest of their goals in this 4-3 win, and they achieved something in the process.
It might not propel them to a run over the last seven games of the seasontheyre still facing the same frenetic schedule, and the infirmary is still overcrowdedbut this win will do much for their psyche.
Being able to come back into the game and come back and win it in the third is a boost of confidence for our guys, said Ducharme. And weve done that beforeIts just that lately…
Lately, the Canadiens appeared to be in a death spiral, with no one finding a way to pull them out of it.
Adversity can be a good thing, unless you face too much of it and fail to prove you can overcome it. Teams even welcome it at times, but they never ask it to make itself at home.
For too long, adversity has had a seat at this teams table, and it wasnt so important for the Canadiens to prove to everyone else they could rid themselves of it so much as it was vital they prove it themselves. Theyve been in a playoff spot from wire to wire and are likely to be there when this season wraps, theyre likely going to get reacquainted with adversity again when it matters most, and its important to be able to not only believe they can overcome it but to also to know from experience they can.
Its important to have a frame of reference, and this winunder very adverse conditionsprovided one.
These points are so important you have to stay in the fight every game, said Ben Chiarot, who had an assist and played arguably his best game of the season stepping up in Webers absence. Theres no kind of, Yeah, you know, this one theyre up two, kind of taking a back seat; we have to keep continuing to push forward no matter what the score is. And its a good lesson for us.
Going forward, theres going to be games we get down by two goals again. If we get into the playoffs, its another thing (where) youre going to be down two goals (and) you have to continue to stay in the game, stay in the fight, continue to push. And I thought our guys did a great job of that tonightnot kind of feeling sorry for ourselves, were down two goals and shutting it down. We continued to push and kept playing and I was proud of the way we responded after that.
And it wasnt just Chiarot, or Suzuki, or Lehkonen, or Armia; it was everyonefrom Jeff Petry, who had an assist and played close to 23 minutes, to Cole Caufield, who only played 10:59 but still managed a team-high seven shot attempts.
The Canadiens needed this kind of game. The kind of game they havent been able to play for weeks.
To be honest, we havent had many of those games in recent memory, said goaltender Jake Allen, who made 19 saves, including some big ones in the final minutes. Its great for our morale, its great for our confidence. We stuck with the program. It wasnt a pretty halfway through the game, 3-1. We were in a spot. But I think we all just dug our heels in.
Because they did, the Canadiens have a more secure hold on the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. And theyve got a game in hand on the Jets, who have now suffered losses in seven of their last nine games and are loosely holding onto third place.
Up next are the Ottawa Senators, who have five of eight games against the Canadiens this year. Some more resilience is in order.

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