June 5, 2023
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Martin St. Louis’ roster moves work as the Canadiens beat Blues 7-4

Christian Dvorak scored a hat-trick and Cole Caufield scored twice while Nick Suzuki and Juraj Slafkovsky scored singles.

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ST. LOUIS – It’s not often that an NHL coach makes major roster changes after a win.

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The Canadians’ Martin St. Louis made three of those for Saturday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues at the Enterprise Center after a 3-2 win over the Sabers Thursday night in Buffalo.

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Forwards Juraj Slafkovsky, Joel Armia and Michael Pezzetta were in the line-up against the Blues, while Jonathan Drouin, Rem Pitlick and Evgenii Dadonov got healthy scratches.

The moves worked as the Canadiens beat the Blues 7-4 and Slafkovsky scored a power play goal to improve their record to 5-4-0. The Canadiens also set a season-high for goals in a game after defeating the Arizona Coyotes 6-2 at Bell Center on Oct. 20, and they went 2-3 on the power play against St. Louis.

The Blues lost their fourth straight, falling to 3-4-0.

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Christian Dvorak scored a hat trick and Cole Caufield scored twice for the Canadiens while Nick Suzuki and Slafkovsky scored singles. Caufield’s second goal came on the power play after an incredible pass from Nick Suzuki.

After the game, Caufield described the pass as “Spooky Suzuki.”

Brayden Schenn, Noel Acciari, Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko scored for the Blues, who overtook the Canadiens 30-25.

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Slafkovsky had missed the last three games with an upper body injury, while Armia have been sidelined with an upper body injury since the start of the season. Drouin was scraped healthy for the third time this season after also sitting out the first two games. Pezzetta had been a healthy scratch in the first eight games.

St. Louis said it was more a case of circumstance with 15 forwards in its roster leading to the lineup changes than the recent play of Drouin, Pitlick and Dadonov. But that also had to be a factor.

This is a contract year for Drouin – who is in the final season of his six-year, $33 million contract with a $5.5 million salary cap – and it’s not a great start with just two assists in the six games that he played with an illness after missing time in the training camp. Drouin said his main goal for this season is to stay healthy. After two wrist surgeries, he is healthy now, but he does not play.

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“I think the first time[Drouin was given a healthy scratch]was more that he wasn’t quite ready,” St. Louis said ahead of Saturday’s game. “He missed some time in the training camp. Jo had a really good attitude. He worked. It really is a circumstance. With 15 forwards that will happen. boys have to play. You can’t just dump guys for 20 games, 15 games. The boys have to play, so we have to do it. I try to give my best.”

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St. Louis has done an impressive job with the rebuilt Canadiens, who are now a point ahead of Toronto overall in the Atlantic Division and have scored three more goals than the Maple Leafs after nine games.

It helps when the power play produces like it did against St. Louis. After going 1:24 on the power play in their first eight games, the Canadians scored two power-play goals in under three minutes against the Blues.

With the Blues leading 3-1 midway through the second period, Caufield leveled at the 10:56 mark.

St. Louis decided to put Slafkovsky on the second power play unit for the first time this season in that game, and it paid off at 13:06 of the second period when he blasted off the top of the with a one-timer blaster Face-off hit circle to tie the score. The 18-year-old, who was picked #1 overall in this year’s draft, celebrated his second goal in the NHL with a big punch.

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The Canadiens took a 15-46 lead of the second period when Caufield scored with help from “Spooky Suzuki” on the power play. Someone has to come up with a Spooky Suzuki Halloween costume now.

It was one of two assists for Suzuki, who now has 4-6-10 totals in nine games to lead the team in goals and 100 career assists in 218 games with the Canadiens. Caufield now has seven goals in nine games this season and 29 goals in 46 games since St. Louis took over as head coach last season.

The Canadiens took a three-goal lead early in the third period when Dvorak scored twice in the first 1:21 of the game to give the Canadiens a 6-3 lead. It was Dvorak’s first two goals of the season.

Tarasenko scored at 2:47 for the Blues, but the Canadiens kept pushing offensively instead of leaning on the two-goal lead (not what fans of the Canadiens team have gotten used to in recent years) and Dvorak completed his hat trick at 18:25 into an empty net.

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Before the game, Blues head coach Craig Berube was asked what he thought of this rebuilding of the Canadiens team.

“They are a hungry, fast team,” said Berube. “They have some really good young players. They have retooled their team. They skate well, they attack, they play hard. There’s a lot of good stuff going on there.”

When St. Louis was briefed on Berube’s comments before the game, he said, “I’m so focused on my team I don’t know which teams notice, don’t notice. I’ll just focus on what we’re doing.”

The Canadiens’ next game is Tuesday in Minnesota against the Wild (8pm, TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Don’t expect any line-up changes from St. Louis after this impressive performance.

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