It was the literal break the Winnipeg Jets needed to capture their second straight win of the preseason.
In the waning minutes of a tie game, Nate Schmidt’s blast from the point shattered the stick of Evgenii Dadonov and fluttered past Cayden Primeau to give the visitors a 4-3 win in Montreal on Thursday night.
While the Jets iced a mostly inexperienced lineup, the Canadiens used many of their regulars. But it certainly didn’t seem to phase the Jets young group.
“I don’t think you have the deer in the headlights feeling for some of these guys cause they’re just out there playing at that point,” said Schmidt. “The third period came around, and I just think we had contributions from everywhere.
“A lot of PP (power play) work. A lot of PK (penalty kill) work. Coaches got a lot of video to dissect in the next 24 hours. Thank goodness it’s a day off tomorrow for them, for their sake.”
The Canadiens appeared well on their way to the victory in the third period after scoring back-to-back power play goals less than two minutes apart. But the Jets scored twice in the final four minutes to secure a second straight preseason win.
“I loved the first two periods,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “We were skating. We were playing fast. We were getting on top of them, weren’t giving up any chances, any odd-mans.
“Unfortunately the penalties took us right out of the flow of the game. Gave them a lot of momentum. But give our guys credit cause things don’t always go your way out there. You find a way to fight through it and stay in the fight.”
Two Moose players, Evan Polei and Cole Maier scored goals for Winnipeg, and first round draft pick Brad Lambert scored once while also adding an assist in his first pre-season game.
“It was a great feeling obviously,” Lambert said. “A great atmosphere. Just really lucky to get this opportunity to play. Just an exhibition game, but it’s still the NHL, and something you dream about.”
Lambert had missed most of training camp with an injury.
“Now you see what we’ve missed for the first couple of weeks,” Bowness said. “Kid looked really good. Lots of speed, lots of skill, but what also jumps out at you is his poise with the puck. He’s an 18-year-old kid playing his first game – didn’t throw it away once.
“So the skills and the speed is all very obvious, but what also jumped out was his poise.”
How did it feel for Brad Lambert to score a goal in the same building he was drafted in?
Hear from Lambert, Schmidt, Samberg and Coach Bowness after tonight's preseason win in Montreal!
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) September 30, 2022
The Canadiens opened the scoring just over five minutes into the first when Kaiden Guhle sniped one past David Rittich.
But the Jets answered later in the frame when Manitoba Moose product Evan Polei got on the board.
As can be expected in a preseason tilt, especially one in which many of the players are unlikely to make their NHL club’s roster, there were long stretches of uneventful hockey.
Such was the case until late in the second when Polei’s Moose teammate Cole Maier tucked one past Primeau on a wrap-around to give Winnipeg a 2-1 advantage after two.
Montreal had only ten shots through 40 minutes, but took over the game in the third thanks to special teams play.
After Logan Stanley and Kirby Dach were sent to the box, Kyle Capobianco took a double-minor for high sticking, his third penalty of the night. That gave Montreal a 4-on-3 advantage, and they made the most of it.
Brendan Gallagher tied the game just past the midway point, batting a bouncing puck past Arvid Holm after the goalie made a number of high-quality saves in the period.
Less than two minutes later, and still on the power play, Cole Caufield ripped one past Holm to hand Montreal the 3-2 lead.
It seemed as though there would be no denying the Habs the win, but out of nowhere the Jets had the game tied with just 3:29 left.
Dadanov misplayed a puck near his own blueline, putting it right on the stick of Lambert who beat Primeau on what was Winnipeg’s second shot of the period. It was a great release from the 18-year-old playing in his first preseason game.
Most observers figured the game was destined for overtime until Schmidt’s goal with 17 seconds remaining gave the Jets the win.
Montreal outshot the Jets 15-6 in the final 20 minutes, but both sides took 25 shots in the game.
The Jets return home to face the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night after the statue of Dale Hawerchuk is unveiled at True North Square.
Pregame show begins at 5 p.m., with the puck dropping just after 7 p.m.
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