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Suzuki, Slafkovsky lead Canadiens to easy win over Ducks

Lukas Dostal Nick Suzuki Anaheim Ducks Montreal Canadiens Lukas Dostal Nick Suzuki - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Cayden Primeau believes the Montreal Canadiens played their best game of the season on Tuesday night.

Judging by the number of shots the young netminder faced, he might have a point.

The 24-year-old Primeau only needed to make 13 saves to earn the first shutout of his career in his first start since Jan. 20 as Montreal cruised to a 5-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks at Bell Centre.

Captain Nick Suzuki had two goals and an assist, and Juraj Slafkovsky had a goal and two assists to lead Montreal’s offence in the dominant victory.

"I really wasn't tested much,” Primeau said. “It's just all credit to them (teammates).”

The red-hot Suzuki extended his point streak to a career-high eight games, producing 13 points in that span, moving up to 51 points in 53 outings this season.

Slafkovsky, who connected with Suzuki all night, extended his own streak to six games (five goals, four assists) and produced the first three-point game of his career.

It’s yet another standout performance for Montreal’s trio of Suzuki, Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield, which is becoming a legitimate top line in the NHL amid another rebuilding season for the Canadiens.

“It’s encouraging, they’re finding consistency, it’s hard not to be excited about that,” head coach Martin St. Louis said. “It’s fun to watch, not just the result, it's how they’re playing together that’s exciting for me.”

Jake Evans and Brandon Gignac — with his first NHL goal — also scored for the Canadiens (22-23-8), who responded from an ugly 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

Lukas Dostal stopped 33 shots for Anaheim (18-32-2), which was shut out for the sixth time this season.

The Canadiens' top players made the Ducks pay on the power play, going 2-for-6 on the night.

“Terrible,” Anaheim defenceman Cam Fowler said bluntly. “That’s all I got for you.”

After Montreal dominated the shots 12-6 in a scoreless first period, the home team cranked it up a notch in the second.

Evans broke the deadlock 1:43 into the second with his third of the season and first in 25 games, beating Dostal with a backhand after a give-and-go play with Tanner Pearson.

Suzuki doubled the lead at 9:37 to extend his streak. Slafkovsky patiently skated around Ducks defenceman Pavel Mintyukov on the break before laying a pinpoint pass from Suzuki to tip it in.

The two forwards connected again later in the period, this time on the power play, as Suzuki hammered home a cross-ice pass from Slafkovsky into an open cage to make it 3-0 with three minutes left in the period.

"It's Nick,” Slafkovsky said. “You never know when it comes right on your tape and you just have to put it in. I mean, Nick is a great player."

In full control, the Canadiens led the shots by a whopping 29-9 after 40 minutes.

"You can deal with wins and losses, but when you go out there and perform like that as a team, that's when you have to start looking in the mirror," Fowler said. "They did a great job, they played hard. We didn't, and that's why you see a result like that."

Montreal added another power-play marker at 7:26 of the third. This time, Suzuki fed Slafkovsky for his 11th of the campaign.

On a night the home crowd had a lot to cheer for, the building may have reacted loudest to Gignac scoring on a 2-on-0 to make it 5-0 with under three minutes.

The 26-year-old from Repentigny, Que., waited a long time to score in the NHL.

"I never stopped believing it could happen one day, so it's just unbelievable right now,” he said. "I had chills all over my body (when the crowd reacted)."

"This building never ceases to amaze me and it was just as loud as if it was playoffs,” Primeau added.

Montreal cruised to victory — but not before tempers flared as players on both teams dropped the gloves multiple times in the dying minutes.

"You have to give credit to them,” Fowler said. “They played a great game and they were obviously upset about what happened the game before and they showed it."


Canadiens: Visit the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Ducks: Continue a three-game Eastern Canada road trip Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2023.