Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens shock Dallas Stars with long-awaited win, 5-3

Tuesday night was the second of a five-game swing for the Montreal Canadiens in Dallas, Texas. Montreal lost in Arizona 5-2 on Monday. Montreal had some players returning, so the hope was they’d return to a better form as well.

Montreal won its third road win of the season with a 5-3 shocker over the Stars.

Wilde Horses 

The third-best team in the NHL this season at home is the Dallas Stars. It wasn’t supposed to go well for Montreal in Texas on Tuesday night. However, the Canadiens are getting some players back, and it’s starting to look like an NHL roster again wearing the red, white and blue.

The latest to return to the lineup is Tyler Toffoli, and he immediately made his presence felt.

Midway through the second period, the Canadiens were on the power play. Nick Suzuki made a pass to Toffoli who had just bought some room by fading away from the goal. It was a smart play because it dragged his defender with him. He promptly took that Suzuki pass and fed it to Christian Dvorak in front of the net. Dvorak had just entered the space that Toffoli had vacated.

Story continues below advertisement

The rotation was excellent. It was a beautifully-conceived goal.

Less than a minute later, the Canadiens made it 2-0. Michael Pezzetta scored when a rebound went off his face and in. Now that might not sound like the most talented goal in league history, but Pezzetta was wise enough to push hard on the blades on the rush to ensure that he stayed in front of the net. Any form of fly-by to the corner or behind the net and Pezzetta does not score that goal.

It’s a small thing, but it meant a big thing in that moment.

Read more: Montreal Canadiens name Kent Hughes as new general manager

Certainly, the Stars thought that this was going to be an easy one; instead, it was one of the best efforts for Montreal all year. It was their first game with a 2-0 lead in almost two months since a 6-3 win over Nashville in November.

Early in the third, the special teams made a difference for a second time. Nick Suzuki did an outstanding job of winning the puck in the neutral zone, blocking out a defender to be able to lead a 2-on-1. Suzuki slid it over perfectly to Toffoli and he scored in his first game back.

Having your best players makes a difference. Having your best players together makes an even bigger difference. 3-1 for the Canadiens in this shocker.

Story continues below advertisement

Montreal made it 4-1 on a breakaway from Dvorak. He used his signature move going upstairs on the backhand for his second of the night. This was the most surprising night of the season.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens drop another with 5-2 loss to Arizona Coyotes

Still speaking of your best players back and playing together, it was Jonathan Drouin with a sweet pass to Josh Anderson who fought off his check to make it 5-2.

The Canadiens registered five goals in a game. Welcome back, better players. It’s good to have you back and it’s good to see your head in the game.

Click to play video: 'Call of the Wilde!' Call of the Wilde!
Call of the Wilde! – Jan 14, 2022

Wilde Goats 

This Wilde Goats has been pretty full this season. No reason to fill it when the Canadiens beat a team with a winning percentage of over .800 at home this season.

Story continues below advertisement

Sam Montembeault was outstanding, facing over 50 shots. There were some mistakes and it wasn’t easy, but Montreal got it done.

Wilde Cards

The Montreal Canadiens named the 18th general manager in their history this morning. It is 51 year-old Kent Hughes. Though the search was an exhaustive six weeks, it was Hughes’ job all along likely. When Jeff Gorton held his first and still only news conference, it was Hughes whose name that Gorton dropped as a possible contender.

Hughes had the inside track because of a long friendship between the two men. He is bilingual, having grown up in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield. He may not have the right French-sounding name for some, but he has the right French accent and the full ability to speak fluently in French to the province of Quebec who deserve the right to be communicated to in their mother tongue.

The Canadiens take a different route with this hiring. It has been the organization’s practice to either take a former player or someone who has been in the organization in some capacity. This is a fresh start. Hughes has no ties whatsoever to the organization, except growing up watching their games in the West Island.

He likely has some fond memories of watching some Stanley Cup runs of the 1970s when Montreal dominated the league.

Story continues below advertisement

That was a long time ago, and Hughes will be charged with bringing those good times back, along with Gorton.

Gorton worked a partnership with John Davidson in New York City just like this partnership to come. He knows that you must get along and communicate well at a deep level for this to work. The seeds of the Rangers’ success now were planted when Gorton and Davidson worked as president and general manager together.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens edged by Chicago Blackhawks in 3-2 overtime nailbiter

Hughes is a player agent with one of the players in his stable upcoming unrestricted free agent Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron is officially now looking for a new agent.

Hughes will be an excellent complement as a smart money man in the equation. Perhaps the Canadiens will make a run at Bergeron when he hits the market, though Bergeron has expressed an interest in staying in Boston.

Right at the forefront for Hughes as his first task will be using his Northeastern University connections to help the Canadiens secure an entry-level contract for Jordan Harris. This Trevor Timmins draft choice has blossomed to be one of the higher-ranked defenders not in the NHL today. However, if he does not sign this summer, Harris will be lost to the organization.

Story continues below advertisement

Enter Hughes, whose son Jack plays for the Huskies as Harris does. In fact, Jack Hughes is ranked as a first-round draft choice in this season’s draft. Another defender, Jayden Struble, also plays for the Huskies, but he has another year left as property of the Canadiens.

Kent Hughes knows all of them well and that goes a long way to settling matters in a positive way.

Read more: Call of the Wilde: Montreal Canadiens’ COVID-19 hiatus ends with 5-1 loss to Boston Bruins

It is Harris who needs to be convinced that he should sign in Montreal. He needs to know that there is a place for him in Montreal and he will be appreciated. The word is that Harris had every right to not be particularly enamoured with the former management team.

If Harris signs with Montreal when his Northeastern University season is over, that would be a coup that fans would love to see. Hopefully, the new partners can get it done as the blue line needs help.

In fact, these two men are going to be extremely busy in the next months. They need to hire a scouting team for one and perhaps an assistant to help with player evaluation and player development.

It’s a long road to turning this worst Habs team by record in the history of the franchise. The road got a little clearer today, but there is a lot of work ahead.

Story continues below advertisement

It will be fascinating to watch their attempt to turn this around from worst to best in the coming years.

Brian Wilde, a Montreal-based sports writer, brings you Call of the Wilde on after each Canadiens game.


Sponsored content