The Montreal Canadiens said the ideal way to rally around injured teammate Jake Evans is by focusing on doing what it takes to win against the Winnipeg Jets in the Stanley Cup Second Round.
Evans, a forward, sustained a concussion when he was hit by Jets center Mark Scheifele after scoring into an empty net with 57 seconds remaining in the Canadiens’ 5-3 road victory in Game 1 on Wednesday. Evans will not play in Game 2 at Winnipeg on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, SN, TVAS) and is out indefinitely.
It was Montreal’s fourth consecutive win in the playoffs, going back to Game 5 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a series the Canadiens won in seven games.
“I think the last four games we’ve played a solid game and that’s the way we want to play,” Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry said Thursday. “Obviously we all know what happened last night and the best way to get back at them for that is to win the series. So our focus is to make sure that we play in the right way and the way we played the last few games and making them pay that way.”
Evans was monitored by Canadiens doctors at the team hotel overnight Wednesday, and was seen by a number of teammates, including forward Paul Byron.
“We’re all wishing Jake the best and hope he’s OK,” Byron said. “The best way for us to respond is to win hockey games so Jake can come back. He’s been great for us.”
Montreal, which trailed Toronto 3-1 after four games in the first round before winning the final three, relied on strong starts to turn their fortunes around against the Maple Leafs. The Canadiens built leads of 3-0, 2-0 and 3-0 in the final three games and did not trail in any of them.
It was the same recipe they used in Game 1 against the Jets.
Goals by centers Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Eric Staal gave Montreal a 2-0 lead 5:10 into the game. Once again, they did not trail the rest of the way.
Asked what the key was to the Canadiens success in the series opener, veteran forward Corey Perry said it was due to a familiar game plan.
“Our start,” he said. “It’s not easy coming off a Game 7, the high, and getting ready for Game 1 of a new series and a new opponent only two days later. The way we came out in that first 10 to 15 minutes, the way we battled and the way we played, we got a couple of early goals and that kind of set the tone for us.”
It’s a blueprint they look to replicate in Game 2.
“I think coming off a pretty emotional Toronto series our team found a way to really carry momentum into the game last night,” Byron said. “Our team has a lot of confidence right now.”