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Montreal Canadiens right wing Joel Armia (40) scores the on Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during third period NHL hockey action on Jan. 15 in Montreal.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The Montreal Canadiens gave some of the NHL’s biggest stars their finest effort in back-to-back games.

On Monday night, it showed up in the win column.

Two nights after narrowly losing to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in overtime, the Montreal Canadiens edged Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Monday at the Bell Centre.

“Getting the result is definitely satisfying,” said Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis, a former league MVP. “Because it’s not an easy task.”

After Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes faced questions about the team’s lack of offensive production Monday morning, Montreal’s top line led the way in the evening.

Captain Nick Suzuki produced two assists, Cole Caufield had a goal and an assist, and Juraj Slafkovsky also scored as the Canadiens went 2-for-2 on the power play.

Suzuki also went 17-9 in the faceoff dot against MacKinnon.

“We want to be like McDavid’s line, MacKinnon’s line,” Suzuki said. “We want to be those guys that are go-to guys offensively, playing big minutes.

“Our past two games against two of the best players in the world, we showed that we can play with these guys and that definitely gives us a lot of confidence.”

Joel Armia scored the game-winner late in the third period and Rafael Harvey-Pinard also found the back of the net for Montreal (18-18-7).

Jake Allen stopped 32 shots to snap the Canadiens’ three-game winless streak.

Makar – with a goal and two assists – Devon Toews and Ross Colton scored for Colorado (28-14-3), which had won 12 of its last 15 games.

The team’s play fell well below its standard, according to Toews.

“Average,” he said. “A lot of average from us tonight. Not good enough. We have such a high standard on this team. A lot of teams would be happy being in a one-goal game, not us, we gotta drive the play a bit more.”

MacKinnon had one assist to extend his point streak to eight games and increase his scoring total to 70, two back of Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the league lead.

Alexandar Georgiev made 30 saves in Colorado’s net.

After Allen made a couple big saves off MacKinnon to keep the score 3-3, Armia battled for the loose puck in front of the net and buried a backhand goal with 4:10 left in the game to cap a solo effort.

“I think he’s having fun, he’s smiling, and playing some really good hockey right now,” St. Louis said. “What we want for Army is that consistency, and we’re getting that right now and hope it keeps going.”

The Avalanche pulled their goalie for a frantic couple minutes with the extra attacker, but couldn’t get a fourth goal past Allen.

Tied 2-2 after 40 minutes, Caufield gave Montreal its first lead with his team-leading 13th of the season 1:52 into the third off a sharp-angle shot on the power play.

Toews then tied it again at 9:37.

Colton opened the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal at 4:28. Former Hab Jonathan Drouin, in his first game against the Canadiens since joining the Avalanche, earned an assist on the goal.

Slafkovsky responded with his fifth of the season and first in 10 games by burying a set-up by Suzuki. The 19-year-old Slafkovsky registered five shots in the first 20 minutes.

“I always want to shoot, and today I was finally shooting, so that’s good,” Slafkovsky said with a laugh.

Makar gave Colorado a 2-1 lead 1:01 into the second with his 10th.

After Montreal fended off a 5-on-3 Colorado power play, Harvey-Pinard scored his first of the season, in his 16th game, with 3:52 left in the second period.

“We didn’t defend nearly hard enough,” Toews said. “Didn’t close plays out, didn’t help each other, didn’t support each other.”

The Canadiens later announced that forward Jesse Ylonen, who took a dump in from teammate Jayden Struble off the back of his head with a minute left in the second, would not return to the game.


Drouin received a loud round of applause and saluted the fans during a video tribute during the first commercial break, but was otherwise jeered every time he touched the puck.

The 28-year-old from Ste-Agathe, Que., left Montreal to join the Avalanche on a one-year, US$825,000 deal in free agency. He played six seasons with the Canadiens.

“It was fun, it was special,” said Drouin. “I tried to keep myself from shedding some tears, when you’ve spent six years here, there were highs and lows, but there were a lot of people who supported me.”


Avalanche: Visit the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

Canadiens: Open a three-game road trip Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils.

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