Scores two goals, giving him a team-leading 13 for the season, in 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators at Bell Centre.
STU COWAN, MONTREAL GAZETTE
During the pregame warmup Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, Canadiens players wore sweaters with their numbers and nicknames on the back that were being auctioned off later as part of the annual Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation telethon.
Max Domi’s sweater had “Shootsy” on the back.
It was fitting since “Shootsy” scored twice as the Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2. Jonathan Drouin, Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher added singles for the Canadiens.
Domi, who had a reputation for passing too often instead of shooting when he was with the Arizona Coyotes, now has a team-leading 13 goals in 28 games with the Canadiens since being acquired during the offseason in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk. In the previous two seasons in Arizona, Domi had 18 goals in 141 games.
So, how did Domi get the nickname “Shootsy”?
“The story is I was in Arizona and we traded for Jason Demers and he came from Dallas,” Domi explained in the locker room after the game while wearing the Game of Thrones cape awarded to the team’s player of the game after each victory. “I guess Florida, but he was in Dallas before with Benny (Jordie Benn). They called each other ‘Shoots’. So when Jason Demers came to Arizona, he called me Little Shoots and I called him Big Shoots. I didn’t really know Benny that well (before being traded to the Canadiens) but enough to kind of kick a conversation off. I was like: ‘Hey, what’s up Shoots?’ And he started dying laughing and it kind of stuck. I call him ‘Shoots’ and he calls me ‘Shootsy.’”
Domi should continue to shootsy more often.
“It’s probably a thing he should probably do more in his game,” said Gallagher, who scored his 12th goal of the season against the Senators. “He’s obviously got 13 now, so he’s been doing it quite a bit. But he’s got a great shot and he can do a lot of things. The more he uses that, obviously, the more he’s going to end up on the scoresheet.”
The win improved the Canadiens’ record to 13-10-5 and they kept hold of the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Un échauffement spécial ce soir alors que les Canadiens s’échauffent avec leur surnom sur le dos.
The Canadiens are warming up in jerseys with their nicknames on the back tonight. Ours is ‘Habs’, in case you were wondering! pic.twitter.com/iqSWjJGFkf
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 5, 2018
Missing out on Gordie Howe hat-trick
Domi, who also assisted on Drouin’s goal, came up a fight short of earning a Gordie Howe hat-trick: a goal, an assist and a fight.
Domi came very close, though, earning a double-minor for roughing after dropping the gloves and landing a few punches on the Senators’ Drake Batherson in the first period.
When asked if Domi got robbed by the referees, who didn’t give him a fighting penalty, Gallagher smiled and said: “I don’t know. … The other guy had his gloves on, so it was probably the right call.
“He does a lot for our group,” Gallagher added about Domi. “Tonight he had two big goals, makes a great pass to Drou, he tried to fight, he was pretty much all over the scoresheet tonight. A little bit of everything.”
When asked if he had a Gordie Howe hat-trick in the back of his mind as the game went on, Domi said: “No, not at all. That stuff means nothing, especially when you’re trying to win a game like that. All you’re worried about is keep going, shift by shift, and watching that clock tick down and getting the two points. That was huge.”
Has Domi ever had a Gordie Howe hat-trick?
“I don’t know, to be honest,” he said. “I’m not sure.”
Good chemistry experiment
The chemistry experiment of having Domi and Drouin on the same line is definitely working as both players picked up three points against the Senators, with Drouin assisting on both of Domi’s goals.
“I think what kids can maybe learn from this is we’re so close off the ice,” Domi said about his relationship with Drouin. “He’s one of my best friends. We have a lot of fun together, we joke around and we give it to each other once in a while. We watch hockey together whenever that is. We talk all the time and we’re always supporting each other. If one of us gets knocked down, the other one’s kind of right there to pick him up. And that’s not just us two, that’s our whole team. When the guy next to you isn’t feeling so hot, you pick him up and that’s kind of what leads to success. With Jo, I think when you have chemistry off the ice it directly leads to chemistry on the ice. Kids kind of lost track of that lately.”
Drouin now has 10 goals in 28 games this season after scoring 13 in 77 games last season.
Domi said the more he scores the more confidence he has in shooting the puck.
“You just keep telling yourself that the next one’s going to go in,” he said.
“I think every player in the NHL is trying to progress on a daily basis, right,” Domi added. “You’re going to have the ups and downs and, of course, sometimes the puck’s going to go your way, other times it’s not. But just stay on even keel, keep working hard and just being a good teammate and trusting that you’re putting in the work and you’re getting rewarded. I think as a group we’ve been doing a good job of that, really putting in the time and the effort away from the games.”
«Il est tellement bon. C’est facile de jouer avec lui. Quand tu commences à deviner ce que l’autre va faire avec la rondelle, c’est vraiment cool. Il est incroyable.»
–@max_domi à propos de @jodrouin27 pic.twitter.com/UJUMgRrVfe
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 5, 2018
Juggling the lines
Coach Claude Julien juggled his lines in the second period, putting Paul Byron with Domi and Drouin and dropping Andrew Shaw down to play with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Lehkonen.
When asked after the game why he decided to make the change, Julien said with a smile: “None of your business.”
The coach then added: “I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell everybody. It’s called coaching. I see certain things and just felt that tonight (Shaw) probably wasn’t as good a fit as he has been. And I did say tonight. So I put a guy (Byron) that I felt had good legs going. So, ironically, they both became good fits on both lines I put them on.
“Lehky’s goal was a great play by Shawsy to, obviously, Kotkaniemi and to Lehky. So he made a great play on that and I thought Paulie Byron really helped that line creating more speed and tonight was a good night to make that change.
“I think it’s just a natural thing,” Julien continued. “Every team changes bodies every once in a while. Sometimes it’s just things are a little stale and then you just make a little change and it helps. And then if it gets stale again, you go back to your old ways. That’s why I say it’s just part of coaching. There’s also a gut feeling. Besides a gut feeling, you see certain things because you know your players well enough that you say: ‘OK, I need to make that change right now. I think when I did change them it was either 1-1 or 2-1 and I just felt it was the right thing to do at the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Changing the fourth line
Julien made one lineup change before the game, making Nicolas Deslauriers a healthy scratch and inserting Matthew Peca in his place on the fourth line with Michael Chaput and Kenny Agostino.
Peca had been a healthy scratch for the previous four games and five of the last six, while Deslauriers had played every game since missing the first six this season while recovering from a facial fracture suffered during a fight with the New Jersey Devils’ Brandon Baddock during a preseason game.
Julien has spoken a lot in the past about the importance of having an identity on his fourth line.
“I think identity, it can be a lot of things,” the coach said after the Canadiens’ morning skate Tuesday in Brossard. “What the latest identity was was that we had three guys that just worked hard and kept the lines that they played against hemmed into their own end.
“Every once in a while, as a fourth line does, it slips a little bit or certain things don’t go as well,” the coach added. “Tonight I think we want to utilize some speed on that line to help it out. You got Agostino, who I think makes a lot of smart decisions with the puck. He’s a smart player. And you got Chaput, whose been great on draws, good penalty-killer, a good work ethic. Now maybe we add some speed to that line and see what it gives us. That’s something that Peca can give us.”
Pecca logged 12:24 of ice time against the Senators, picked up an assist and was minus-1.
Charles Hudon and Xavier Ouellet joined Deslauriers as the healthy scratches.
Fifth straight start for Price
Carey Price made his fifth straight start in goal for the Canadiens, making 28 saves to improve his season record to 9-8-4 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage.
“I think there’s no reason why we can’t ride him,” Julien said after Tuesday’s morning skate about Price, who is in the first season of his eight-year, US$84-million contract. “But it is still a heavy schedule in December and we’re certainly going to need our other goaltender to step in at some point. I think right now when you look at the way we’ve played, even though we haven’t won, it’s not like we’ve given a ton of chances. We haven’t given a ton of shots. So it’s not like Carey’s sitting there facing 50 shots every night having to go in on back-to-backs for example. We’re monitoring that the best way we can and keeping a close eye and seeing whether he needs a break or whether he can continue to go.”
Canadiens backup goalie Antti Niemi has a 4-2-1 record with a 3.61 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage.
La première étoile de la soirée. 🤩
Tonight’s first star. pic.twitter.com/35VTBuxYhe
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 5, 2018
Habs-Sens rivalry heats
Tuesday’s game was the second meeting of the season between these two teams, with the Senators beating the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime in Ottawa on Oct. 20.
The Canadiens and Senators will meet again Thursday night in Ottawa and then again on Saturday, Dec. 15, meaning the four-game season series will be finished 10 days before Christmas. That’s some silly scheduling by the NHL for two division rivals.
“I think every team in the league has certain teams that bring the best out of them in that way,” Julien said about the Canadiens-Senators rivalry after Tuesday’s morning skate. “I think we could put Boston in that same category, Toronto at times, although they play a different style. With the Senators, definitely they’re gritty games most of the time. I think it’s our closest rival, so I think it’s a natural thing. I don’t think there’s a lot of love between the two teams, which is a good thing when you’re looking for a rivalry.”
Another special KK moment
Canadiens rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi is a lot of fun to be around with his constant smile as he enjoys every minute of being an NHL player.
Following Tuesday’s morning skate, there was a large media scrum around Gallagher’s locker after he was named winner of the Jean Béliveau Trophy for the 2017-18 season for his charitable actions and community involvement. Kotkaniemi’s locker stall is right beside Gallagher’s, so the rookie couldn’t squeeze in to sit and take off his equipment.
What did the kid his teammates call KK do?
Kotkaniemi took a tape recorder from J.F. Chaumont of the Journal de Montréal and joined in the scrum, taping his teammates comments. Gallagher had a smile almost as big as Kotkaniemi’s when he realized the rookie had joined the media scrum in full equipment, minus his helmet.
It obviously fun to be an 18-year-old playing in the NHL.
Kotkaniemi, selected with the No. 3 overall pick at this year’s NHL Draft, logged 11:22 of ice time against the Senators and picked up an assist, giving him 3-10-13 totals in 28 games.
The Senators’ Brady Tkachuk, selected by Ottawa with the No. 4 overall pick at this year’s draft, was pointless and minus-3 Tuesday night. He has 9-7-16 totals in 17 games with the Senators.
Juulsen skating again
Canadiens defenceman Noah Juulsen took part in Tuesday’s morning skate, practising with his teammates for the first time since suffering a facial fracture when hit in the face by a puck during a game against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 19 at the Bell Centre.
Juulsen, who was wearing a full cage to protect his face, has yet to be cleared for contact, but Julien said it is possible he could return to the lineup within the next week.
Julien said there was no change in the rehab schedule for forward Joel Armia, who suffered a knee injury during a game against the New York Rangers on Nov. 6. Armia’s recovery period was originally expected to be 6-8 weeks.