Canadiens end four-game losing streak with ‘nice, solid win’ over Capitals

Joel Armia scores three goals and Mike Matheson gets three assists as Habs show they haven’t given up on season.

This has been a challenging and frustrating season for a lot of Canadiens players.

So Thursday night’s 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals had to feel good.

You are reading: Canadiens end four-game losing streak with ‘nice, solid win’ over Capitals

Joel Armia had a hat-trick (including an empty-netter), while Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Mike Hoffman added singles for the Canadiens. Suzuki and Armia both scored goals while the Canadiens were short-handed.

Dylan Strome and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals, who were outshot 32-26.

This has been a challenging season for Suzuki in his first year as captain of the Canadiens with so many players going on the injured list, resulting in a revolving door of linemates. Thursday night he was playing with Armia and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.

“When you have all these guys coming in, you want to make them feel comfortable and help them as much as you can,” Suzuki said recently. “It seems like the guys do a good job of welcoming everyone. We’ve got a really good group of guys here and the culture that we’ve been building can be special and I think we’ve shown that.”

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Suzuki added an assist against the Capitals for his 19th multi-point game of the season. The 23-year-old leads the Canadiens in scoring with 24-39-63 totals, setting career highs in goals and points after posting 21-40-61 totals last season.

This has been a frustrating season for Armia, who missed 39 games because of injuries. This was his first hat trick since March 1, 2019, when he scored three goals as the Canadiens beat the Rangers 4-2 in New York. Armia has 7-7-14 totals in 40 games this season.

Armia can be a frustrating player to watch because he can look like a superstar on a night like this, then turn into the Invisible Man for a long stretch of games.

“I think Army can do a lot of things,” St. Louis said after the game. “I think he’s a player that can play up and down the lineup. He’s a heavy body, he can play a physical game, he can play a skill game. I think he can do a lot if you can unlock it, but I think it’s up and down the lineup. It’s killing penalties, it’s power play. There’s not one role that he can’t play.”

Armia still has two more seasons remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $3.4 million, so it will be interesting to see if St. Louis can unlock the 29-year-old’s talent in the future.

Speaking of talent, defenceman Mike Matheson continues to impress after recovering from injuries that sidelined him for 34 games. He had a hat trick of assists against the Capitals, giving him 8-25-33 totals in 45 games. That’s a career high in points for the 29-year-old after he posted 11-20-31 totals in 74 games last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being acquired by Canadiens GM Kent Hughes in the Jeff Petry trade last summer. Petry has 5-24-29 totals in 58 games this season with Pittsburgh.

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Matheson called the win a “breath of fresh air” for the Canadiens, who ended a four-game losing streak and improved their record to 31-42-6. They fell behind 1-0 in the first period, but scored four unanswered goals in the second period to take control.

The Capitals saw their record fall to 34-35-9 and looked like a team that was officially eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday, marking the first time since 2014 that they won’t be in the postseason. Alex Ovechkin, who has 37 goals in 55 career games against the Canadiens, only had one shot.

The Canadiens will miss the playoffs for the second straight season and for the fifth time since the last time the Capitals weren’t in the postseason.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Matheson said. “There’s been a lot of negativity in the last few days and couple of weeks with all the losses — and they’ve been tough losses, too. So we really haven’t been happy with the way we were playing. As much as it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, I think it was great to just get a nice, solid win.”

The win was significant in one way for the Canadiens when it comes to the NHL draft lottery. It moved them into 27th place in the overall standings, one point ahead of the Arizona Coyotes, who lost 4-2 to the Seattle Kraken Thursday night.

Matheson got off to a rough start in Montreal because of abdominal and groin injuries, but now that he’s healthy he wants to show fans in his home town what he can do.

“I started off my career in Florida and I always felt like I had something to prove and maybe that was one of the things that kind of helped things spiral a little bit was I was so hard on myself,” said Matheson, who was selected by the Florida Panthers in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2012 NHL draft. “But, at the same time, I don’t think that’s something to lose. I feel like that’s what drives me a lot and I still feel like I have a lot to prove.”

The Canadiens proved on this night that they haven’t given up on the season with three games left to go.

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