Canadiens' improved process must start leading to better results

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored at 4:29 of overtime to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

MONTREAL — At a certain point, the Montreal Canadiens need to come out on the other end of these games.

Both the Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets made catastrophic mistakes in this 4-3 nail-biter that was settled in overtime at the Bell Centre, but the Canadiens managed to make one more than the Jets and it cost them a precious extra point in the standings. And you have to wonder if the Canadiens can take the same positive out of it as they would’ve had they won.

You really do, because it’s a ninth loss in their last 12 games and a sixth in their last seven, and the frustration can be overwhelming under the circumstances.

This had the makings of a galvanizing win for the Canadiens, with two precious points within their grasp despite the game not being played to their satisfaction. When they reduced an early 2-0 deficit with a goal on their first power-play opportunity and came up with a monumental kill after Jonathan Drouin took a hooking penalty 200 feet from his own net, it was extended life in two key areas that had been dead for too long — special teams making a difference in a game they desperately needed them to after the same thing happened in a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

When Drouin came out of the penalty box and took a shot that banked its way to Tyler Toffoli for the game-tying goal in the 17th minute of the second period, it was a redemptive moment for two players who needed one. Drouin’s penalty could’ve proved costly, and Toffoli had gifted Mathieu Perreault the goal that gave Winnipeg their 2-0 lead 15:25 into the first.

Shea Weber misplayed a puck and got caught in no-mans land on Paul Stastny’s second goal of the game in the fourth minute of the third, and then he took a penalty just over two minutes later out of sheer frustration. But Weber and the Canadiens fought through it and scored to tie it 3-3 while goaltender Jake Allen watched from the bench and Corey Perry, the extra attacker for Montreal, had Drouin’s high-slot tip go off his hip and into the net.

The Canadiens had four chances to win the game in overtime after Allen made two outrageous saves — the first on a Kyle Connor breakaway and the second on a Blake Wheeler one-timer — and burying one of them would’ve been powdered sugar on the cannoli.

Instead, they tasted bitter defeat, with Montreal’s Joel Armia and Jeff Petry bumping into each other, leaving Winnipeg’s Pierre-Luc Dubois to just pick his spot to win the game with 31 seconds left.

“If we score in overtime, it’s a whole different story,” said Toffoli of the team’s fourth loss of the season in the 3-on-3 period.

Think about the payoff. Of the power play and penalty kill coming through, of the mistakes erased by key goals at key times, and of Drouin emerging as a game breaker against a Jets team full of them.

The 25-year-old had a good start to the season under former Canadiens coach Claude Julien, and he’s been on a whole other level under Dominique Ducharme, his former junior coach who now presides over Montreal’s bench.

“I think what we’re seeing right now — I really liked his three games,” said Ducharme of Drouin prior to coaching his fourth Canadiens game. “I think he had a good start of the season last year, a good start this year, and I think he’s taking it to another level right now. And that’s… I don’t look at a player only on points and things like that, I really like the way he’s playing right now. I know and I’m confident he’s going to keep playing that way and even grow as a player within that, and points will follow.”

They did. Two of them as a reward for how hard he was working.

“I’m pushing to strive to be a difference maker,” said Drouin. “Every game I bring something to the table and do something well.”

Can he focus on that when these teams play again Saturday? Can he take it to that key game and leave a tough first shift in this one, a bad penalty and a drop pass in overtime that led to Connor’s breakaway behind?

Can Drouin take the positive out of how hard he hustled to get back on the play?

Can the Canadiens take the same thing out of this game as they would’ve had they won it?

“I think so,” said Weber. “We’re doing some good things. It’s not all bad. I think we’re playing a pretty sound game for the most part. Obviously, there’s some mistakes there. Mistakes are going to happen in games, and you want to limit those mistakes.”

Ducharme said they’re easily fixable, that they were uncharacteristic and compounded on certain sequences.

“It’s not the type of game we want to play,” he added. “We want to make plays, we want to make reassuring plays with guys in control and playing the percentages.”

That would’ve made the difference in overtime, where Ducharme employed more aggressive tactics, including playing three forwards for a shift before the final one cost the Canadiens.

There was even something good to take out of that.

“The result is ultimately the most important thing, but it takes time with some things,” said Weber. “But we know we’re right there. I think we believe in the dressing room it’s right there.”

It has to follow on the ice now because the Canadiens are five points back of the Jets with a game in hand. They’re only two points up on a Calgary team that’s played two more games and struggled even worse than them.

The Canadiens need it to start going their way.

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