Connor nets OT winner as Jets squeeze past Canadiens
WINNIPEG — Kyle Connor knew he'd finally score on a goalie this season and it came at a great time.
Connor scored 1:45 into overtime to give the Winnipeg Jets a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
His low shot past Sam Montembeault was his first goal on a netminder this season. He had an empty-net goal in Winnipeg's season opener.
“We’ve got such a good group, and build each other up in situations where guys are dealing with that,” said Connor, who scored a team-high 47 goals last season.
“For me, I just lean on them a lot. It starts with our leaders. Blake (Wheeler), I think, was the first guy off the bench hugging me. He couldn’t be more excited. That’s just the type of character we have in this room. It’s good to be able to lean on those guys in situations like that.”
Connor also picked up an assist and has six points through 10 games. Pierre-Luc Dubois scored a power-play goal and added an assist for the Jets (6-3-1), who are on a five-game point streak (4-0-1).
“Yeah, we needed that guy to score,” Wheeler said of Connor. “He has had incredible opportunities every game. He’s just so dynamic and creates so much out there for us.
“For guys like him, when it rains it pours. Hopefully, it’s the start of something big for him.”
Connor Hellebuyck made 20 saves for Winnipeg in front 13,729 fans. It kicked off a three-game homestand at Canada Life Centre.
Nick Suzuki had a goal and assist for the Canadiens (5-5-1), extending his goal streak to three games. Kirby Dach also scored and Cole Caufield picked up a pair of assists.
“It was pretty even all the way through,” Suzuki said. “I think they had a lot more power plays than us and that kind of drained some of our guys' energy.
“I think if we didn't have that many penalty kills, our five-on-five game was good tonight and could have changed the game.”
Winnipeg finished 1-for-5 on the power play and Montreal was 0-for-2.
Montembeault stopped 33 shots for Montreal, which ended a four-game road trip (2-1-1).
The game was tied 1-1 after the first period and 2-2 following the second.
Suzuki scored at 6:43 of the opening period after racing around Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo and putting a close, high shot past Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg had a pair of power plays in the first and Dubois capitalized on the second one.
Dubois fired a shot from the middle of the circle that beat Montembeault on the glove side to tie it up at 17:28.
Dach restored Montreal's lead when he put a rebound of a Suzuki shot into the net at 4:54 of the second period.
Wheeler notched the 299th goal of his career 41 seconds later, which was unsuccessfully challenged for goaltender interference by Montreal head coach Martin St. Louis
Dubois had shot the puck at Montembeault and it went under him and along the goal line. Wheeler was in front of the net and banged it in with his stretched-out stick.
“I’m not sure what the rule is on a rebound like that, but the initial shot everything was fine,” Montembeault said. “But then after the puck was just behind me, I turned around and tried to put my hand on it and (Wheeler) pushed me like he would have (done) with a D-man.
“But he pushed me out of my crease and he had an easy tap-in after that. That should have been goaltender interference, but I think Marty made the right call to challenge but we didn’t get (it) back.
“I think we fought really hard in the third and tried to get a point there.”
The Jets had three power plays in the period — including a short one because of their own penalty — but couldn't grab the lead.
Montembeault faced a three-on-one early in the third period, but turned aside Alex Jonsson-Fjallby's shot.
Hellebuyck denied Josh Anderson on a breakaway with under five minutes remaining.
SEASON DEBUTS: Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson finally saw game action after missing the first 10 with a lower back injury. Jets forward Dominic Toninato also made his season debut, filling a roster spot for injured forward Morgan Barron (wrist surgery).
Jets: Host the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday afternoon.
Canadiens: Host Vegas Golden Knights Saturday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2022.