Canadiens-Wild likely a low-scoring battle (Jan 12, 2017)
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Montreal Canadiens scored seven times in beating the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday and are fifth in the league in goals per game. The Minnesota Wild are just ahead, fourth in the league with 3.13 goals per game.
The two teams will likely have a hard time finding the back of the net as they meet Thursday in Minnesota.
The Wild, coming off a West Coast swing in which they went 2-0-1, will likely have goaltender Devan Dubnyk between the pipes for a matchup with Montreal's Carey Price.
Price is considered by many as the top goaltender in the NHL, and he backs up the talk with a 2.12 goals-against average (sixth in the league) and .928 save percentage (fifth). Dubnyk, however, holds the statistical advantage this season with league-bests 1.80 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
Dubnyk was named to his second straight All-Star Game on Tuesday and he's won 12 of his past 13 games as Minnesota has climbed to within four points of Central-leading Chicago.
"You don't do that for 82 games ever," Dubnyk told the Minneapolis Star Tribune of his first 27 starts. "There's always going to be some lulls. And fortunately, two of the three (tough starts in the past four games) we were able to score five and six goals, so we'll take those.
"But, it's nice to get out there and remember what it feels like to give up one, and not four."
Dubnyk had not allowed four goals all season until Dec. 29 against the Islanders. But he gave up four goals in three straight games before allowing just one against the Anaheim Ducks s Minnesota finished its strong West coast swing. The Wild still won two of the three games in which Dubnyk allowed four goals.
"This is, if not the toughest, for sure, one of the toughest trips every year," Minnesota center Mikko Koivu told the Star Tribune. "All three teams, they play hard, they play good two-way hockey."
Strong two-way hockey has defined the Wild and Canadiens.
Minnesota has the fourth-most goals per game and is allowing the second fewest per game (2.13). The Canadiens are fifth in scoring at 3.12 goals per game and fifth in the fewest allowed (2.38).
In the first game of the back-to-back, Montreal got two goals each from Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen. Danault scored a highlight-reel goal in skating the length of the ice and weaving between four defenders before scoring with a quick shot.
"You don't see those types of goals very often in the NHL," coach Michel Therrien told NHL.com. "For the young kid, it's good for his confidence. He's playing really well. There's a reason we put him out there. He was always a good skater, he can move the puck and protect the puck well and he's responsible at both sides of the ice."
Danault has stepped up as the No. 1 center with the Canadiens deal with a glut of injuries. Montreal is playing without forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Andrew Shaw, and defenseman Andrei Markov.
"For us, I'll say that we want to play our game," Therrien told NHL.com after Wednesday's game. "We want to play a fast-paced game and we want to dictate from the start and move on from our last game (a 4-1 home loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday). And this is what we did. First shift set the tone of the game and we went from there."
Al Montoya earned the win in net on Wednesday with 23 saves, setting up the Price-Dubnyk matchup.
It will be the second time the two teams, and goalies, will meet. The Wild won 4-2 in Montreal on Dec. 22 as Eric Staal scored a shorthanded goal.
Coincidentally, Montoya is 5-0 against Minnesota with six goals allowed, while Price is 4-4 in his career against the Wild with a 2.51 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in eight starts.
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau, with three days off since beating Anaheim, gave his older players Wednesday off.
"I thought (Tuesday's practice) was a real good day," Boudreau told the Star Tribune, "and (today) was sort of an experiment. I don't know how it's going to work or if it's not going to work. But with all the games that we've got now, ... so we wanted to give a couple of our older players and/or guys that get a lot of ice time a little bit of a break today and see how it works out for (Thursday's) game and whether it's something we'll continue to do."