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One of the best trades Marc Bergevin has made as GM of the Canadiens came on March 2, 2015, when he acquired defenceman Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for two draft picks.
The Oilers used those picks to select defencemen Jonas Siegenthaler in the second round and Caleb Jones in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Siegenthaler is now with the Washington Capitals, while Jones remains with the Oilers.
On Saturday night, Petry was back in Edmonton and he scored two goals (one on the power play) as the Canadiens beat the Oilers 5-1. Tomas Tatar also scored twice, while Jake Evans scored a short-handed goal.
The Canadiens have now scored nine goals in their first two games, including a season-opening 5-4 OT loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Wednesday night. They are also 3-for-5 on the power play.
This is not the kind of hockey Canadiens fans have had to suffer through the last three seasons and for Quebecers shut in at home during the COVID-19 curfew this was another entertaining night for those watching on TV.
The Canadiens were all over the Oilers in the first period, outshooting them 15-9, but they were only leading 1-0 after 20 minutes on Petry’s power-play goal and thanks to goalie Carey Price stopping Connor McDavid on a breakaway. The final shots on goal for the game were 36-35 for the Canadiens and Price was outstanding, losing his shutout bid at 12:59 of the third period when Slater Koekkoek scored his first NHL goal on a nice shot.
“The team looks a lot different from when I was here,” Petry said about the Oilers during a video conference Friday. “There’s a handful of guys. But you know, with the circumstances we’re in (with COVID-19) it’s a little different not being able to kind of go out in the city and go to your favourite restaurant or anything like that. So it is different, but you know this is where it all started for me. So for that opportunity I think it is still a place that has a little bit more feeling for me.”
Petry, 33, is in the final season of a six-year, US$33-million contract with a $5.5 million salary-cap hit. He signed a four-year, US$25-million contract extension during the off-season that runs through the 2024-25 season with an annual salary-cap hit of $6.25 million.
Petry is off to a great start this season with 2-2-4 totals in the first two games.
McDavid held in check
McDavid, who had three goals and an assist in the Oilers’ 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night, was limited to one assist against the Canadiens.
Leon Draisaitl, the other half of the Oilers’ two-headed monster who had four assists against the Canucks, was held pointless.
McDavid had only two shots on goal in 19:13 of ice time, while Draisaitl had 6 shots in 19:38 of ice time.
This was the first of nine games this season between Montreal and Edmonton in the new all-Canadian North Division and on Friday Canadiens centre Phillip Danault was asked about the challenge of trying to shut down McDavid.
“It’s definitely a big challenge and I’ll embrace that challenge,” Danault said. “It’s obviously a different schedule, but it will create some rivalries as well. It’s interesting and it’s going to be exciting and I can’t wait for the challenge.”
Danault was certainly up to the challenge Saturday night, picking up two assists and finishing plus-2 while logging 16:14 of ice time.
In 11 career games against the Canadiens, McDavid has 3-11-14 totals.
There’s a reason why Danault finished sixth last season in voting for the Frank Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward in the NHL. It’s a lot of fun to watch McDavid play hockey and it’s also a lot of fun to watch Danault play against him.
Playing for new contracts
Danault and Tatar are both in the final season of their contracts and can become unrestricted free agents after the season.
They are both off to great starts and Tatar now has three goals in the first two games as he looks to hit the 20-goal mark for a seventh straight season. Tatar’s first goal Saturday night was a sniper’s shot after a nice setup from Danault and his second came on a beautiful breakaway deke.
Danault, 27 is in the final season of a three-year, US$9.25-million contract with a $3.083 million salary-cap hit. Tatar, 30, is in the final season of a four-year, US$21.2-million contract with a $5.3 million salary-cap hit.
The Canadiens struggled in the faceoff circle, winning only 40 per cent of their draws, but it didn’t matter on this night — especially with Price playing the way he did.
Evans had the most success on faceoffs, going 5-5 (50 per cent), while Jesperi Kotkaniemi went 6-7 (46 per cent). Danault had a rare bad night on faceoffs, going 5-9 (36 per cent), while Nick Suzuki also went 5-9. Brendan Gallagher took one faceoff after Danault was tossed from the circle and won it cleanly.
One of the reasons the Canadiens struggled on faceoffs is because McDavid was a perfect 7-0, while Devin Shore went 6-2 (75 per cent).
Ben Chiarot led the Canadiens in ice time with 23:04, followed by Shea Weber (21:59) and Petry (21:52). Tyler Toffoli led the forwards in ice time with 17:21, followed by Suzuki with 16:41.
Petry led the Canadiens with five shots, while Evans had four. Alexander Romanov and Joel Edmumdson tied for the lead in hits with five.
Managing salary cap
The Canadiens recalled Evans from the taxi squad Saturday morning, making him eligible to play against the Oilers.
Evans was placed on the taxi squad on Thursday as a salary-cap move. Players loaned to the taxi squad are eligible to travel and practise with the full team, but do not count against the cap.
Evans has a US$750,000 contract for this season and, as CapFriendly.com explained, each day he spends on the taxi squad saves the Canadiens $6,465 against the cap.
His goal Saturday night came on a two-on-one break with Paul Byron while short-handed and Evans showed confidence by taking a shot instead of passing and then banged in the rebound for his third career goal.
No morning skate
The Canadiens didn’t hold a team morning skate Saturday with only the extra players hitting the ice at Rogers Place.
That will be a common occurrence this season, especially if the Canadiens practise the day before a game, as was the case Friday in Edmonton.
“I think it’s going to be a case of a little bit more on the fact that did you get a full day off the day before?” coach Claude Julien said earlier this week when asked about cutting down on morning skates. “And sometimes when you do most guys, and as a team, you like to skate the morning of a game. But if you’re playing lots of games I think for the most part I think most teams are still going to skip those morning skates overall. So I think there’s going to be kind of an adjustment here on a day-to-day basis or game-to-game basis, if we can put it that way. But I think you’re going to see a lot of morning skates not happening, especially if you practice the day before.”
The Canadiens have a tough schedule to start the season with six straight road games.
Saturday’s game is the first of two straight in Edmonton against the Oilers. After playing the Oilers again on Monday night, the Canadiens will head to Vancouver to play three straight games against the Canucks.
“It will be different, for sure,” Gallagher said during training camp about the condensed 56-game schedule this season. “You just kind of have to look back at all the lessons you’ve learned. I think the biggest thing is when you look at the schedule you’re going to see there’s not a lot of practice time. It’s going to be important for us to not let bad habits seep into our game, which was something that really affected us last year.
“We’re not going to talk about it a ton, but you talk about those losing streaks that we had last season there were the result of bad habits just seeping into our game and when they come they’re hard to get rid of, it takes some time,” Gallagher added about the Canadiens having two eight-game losing streaks last season. “We can’t afford to go through one of those things this year, so it’s going to be something where we’re going to have to stay on top of it, stay on top of each other and make sure that those bad habits — they usually build up, and they’re correctable for a certain amount of time — so just be aware of them. And when they do happen it can’t always be the coaches … sometimes as players we’re going to have to make sure that our teammates are staying on top of things and when you have that accountability throughout the group I think it’s going to have a huge impact on us.”
The Canadiens will remain in Edmonton and play their second straight game against the Oilers on Monday night at Rogers Place (9 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
After that, the Canadiens head to Vancouver for three games against the Canucks next Wednesday (10 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), Thursday (9:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, CITY, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5).
The Canadiens will then return to Montreal and play their home opener against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, Jan. 28 at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021