MONTREAL — He may be sitting among the NHL's top scoring defencemen, but Jeff Petry is keeping his focus simple — just do what it takes to win.
The veteran Montreal Canadiens blue liner had another multi-point night Monday, tallying two goals and an assist as the Habs routed the Vancouver Canucks 6-2.
He now has 11 points (four goals, seven assists), and is tied with three others for the top-producing defenceman in the league this season.
“There’s times when the puck’s your friend and times when it’s not. So I’ve been getting some good bounces and the guys around me are playing well," Petry said. "I’m not focused on the number of points. Just as much as I can do to help out team win.”
Petry's second tally of the night was a backdoor tap in, set up beautifully by Corey Perry with a crisp pass across the crease. The assist marked the 800th point of Perry's career.
It's been a solid start to the season for the Canadiens (6-1-2).
Beat in regulation for the first time on Saturday, the squad responded early in Monday's battle against the Canucks (6-6-0), with Nick Suzuki scoring a minute into the first period.
From there, Montreal was an unrelenting wave, crashing repeatedly through Vancouver's defence with strength and speed that created numerous breakaways.
“I don’t know how many breakaways we gave away tonight but it was about five too many," said Canucks defenceman Nate Schmidt.
One giveaway in the neutral zone set Montreal winger Brendan Gallagher free midway through the second frame. He sprinted down the ice alone, faked a shot, then beat Canucks goalie Braden Holtby with a backhand.
Creating pressure has been a focus for the club since the beginning of training camp, said coach Claude Julien.
“We think we’re a good skating team," he said. "We feel that playing the pressure game is what serves us best.”
Suzuki and Artturi Lehkonen each scored and registered a helper in Monday's victory, and Tyler Toffoli added a power-play goal. He has seven goals this season, with six coming against the Canucks.
The Canadiens know their depth and style is tough to play against, said centre Jake Evans.
“As our team’s set up, we’re just going to keep coming and I think that can really frustrate teams," he said.
Vancouver and Montreal have already gotten to know one another well this season, with the Habs trouncing the Canucks in two-of-three meetings last month. The Canadiens settled for a 6-5 overtime loss in the other outing.
The Canucks came into Montreal on Monday knowing how they had to play but failing to execute, said coach Travis Green.
“Games like tonight probably frustrate me more than others," he said. "Because as good as a team as they are, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot again. And that can drive you crazy as a coach, I guess. And players on the team as well.”
Adam Gaudette and Jay Beagle scored Vancouver's goals, but the Canucks top line of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller struggled to produce offensively.
Holtby stopped 34-of-40 shots for Vancouver while Canadiens netminder Carey Price had 27 saves to snap the Canucks' four-game win streak.
Despite Monday night's dominant result, Julien said there are still things he'd like to see his side work on.
“We’re by far not a perfect team," he said. "We just need to keep on top of our team and hope that we keep getting better as the season goes on. Winning is fun, but putting the work in is what gets us there.”
The Canadiens will be tested again on Tuesday when the Canucks return for a rematch.
“They’re going to be better tomorrow night, absolutely. And we need to be ready for that," said Montreal's coach. "The big key is to stay hungry and to do the right things and to play the right way. And if you do that, no matter what, you’re giving yourself a good chance.”
NOTES: Victor Mete made his season debut for the Canadiens. The 22-year-old defenceman's agent said over the weekend that Mete was looking for a trade out of Montreal. He declined to discuss the situation after Monday's win. … Jake Virtanen returned to Vancouver's lineup in place of Antoine Roussel, who Green said was kept out of the game with a "health issue." Virtanen was a healthy scratch for the Canucks' two previous games. … Lehkonen played his 300th NHL game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press