Jets hand struggling Canadiens 6th straight loss in Kovalchuk’s debut

Andrew Copp scored the winning goal in the third period to lift the Winnipeg Jets to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for the Jets (23-16-4) while captain Blake Wheeler had two assists.

Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 29 saves. Hellebuyck was coming off a 41-save performance in an overtime loss to the Wild on Saturday.

Defenceman Ben Chiarot scored twice for the Canadiens (18-18-7), who have dropped six games in a row. Veteran forward Ilya Kovalchuk had an assist in his Canadiens debut.

Carey Price stopped 24-of-27 shots in the first game of a back-to-back for Montreal.

The Jets were leading 2-1 with 9:44 remaining in the game when Copp scored the insurance goal. Copp stole the puck from Cale Fleury at Winnipeg’s blue line, skated the length of the ice and beat Price five-hole on the breakaway.

Chiarot netted his second of the game less than two minutes later, a wrist shot from the face-off dot that beat Hellebuyck blocker side to make it 3-2.

But that’s as close as the Canadiens would get, as the struggling Jets improved to 2-3-2 in their past seven games.

Bienvenue à Montréal

Kovalchuk made his Montreal debut after agreeing to a one-year, two-way contract last week. Fans cheered loudly when the Russian stepped onto the ice for his first shift.

Ilya Kovalchuk made his Montreal Canadiens debut against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, playing in his first game since the Los Angeles Kings terminated his contract on Dec. 17, 2019. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

In his first NHL game since Nov. 9 with the Los Angeles Kings, the 36-year-old registered an assist, four shots and six hits in 18:58 of ice time. Kovalchuk skated on the top line, replacing the injured Brendan Gallagher (concussion), and on the top power-play unit.

After a scoreless first period, the Jets took a 2-0 lead five minutes into the second.

Morrissey got the breakthrough at 1:32 with a wrist shot from the blue line into heavy traffic. The puck took a slight deviation off Jeff Petry’s hip and into the back of the net.

The visitors doubled their lead at 4:46 while playing shorthanded. A mishandled puck by Tomas Tatar in the neutral zone created a 2-on-0 breakaway for Wheeler and Ehlers, who exchanged passes before beating Price.

It was the third short-handed goal allowed by the Canadiens this year.

Down 2-0, Montreal pressed for a goal and was rewarded when Chiarot’s slap shot from outside the face-off circle flew past Hellebuyck at 11:03 — a career-high seventh goal this season for the Canadiens defenceman.

Kovalchuk did not get an assist but he started the play that led to the goal with a good fore-check along the half wall.

With time winding down in the second, Price kept his side alive with his best save of the game. The Canadiens goaltender expertly played a 2-on-1, hugging the post to his left before pushing right to deny Kyle Connor with his right pad.

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