Canadiens Game Day: Jesperi Kotkaniemi scores twice in 6-4 win over Caps

Canadiens Game Day is a new feature this season in which we will follow the Habs during every home game from the morning skate in Brossard through the post-game interviews at the Bell Centre, updating throughout the day with all the news, quotes, Cheap Montreal Canadiens Jerseys
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Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored his first goal in the NHL and it came on his first shift with the Canadiens’ new Finnish Connection line.

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The 18-year-old scored his second goal with 3:04 left in the third period to tie the game 4-4 with the Washington Capitals, Max Domi scored the winner with 21.1 seconds left on the clock and then Joel Armia added an empty-netter for a 6-4 victory at the Bell Centre.

Kotkaniemi, playing centre on a line between fellow Finns Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia, scored 2:28 into the first period, taking a pass from Armia and then beating Braden Holtby high to the short side over the goalie’s blocker.

Kotkaniemi had four assists in his first 11 NHL games before getting his first goal, followed by a big ovation from the Bell centre crowd and an ever bigger smile from the rookie. Kotkaniemi, at 18 years and 118 days, becomes the second-youngest player in Canadiens history to score a goal, trailing only Mario Tremblay, who was 18 years and 75 days when he scored his first goal.

Brendan Gallagher also scored twice for the Canadiens, giving him a team-leading nine for the season. Former Canadien Lars Eller scored twice for the Capitals and so did Alex Ovechkin.
Coach Claude Julien was forced to juggle his lines because Paul Byron was sidelined with a lower-body injury, ending his streak of playing in 135 consecutive games.

When asked about the possibility of a Finnish Connection line after the morning skate, Lehkonen said: “I still don’t know what the lines are going to be. But if it happens, I don’t know if there’s ever been a full Finnish line. It would be fun.”

Hudon moves into top six
Lehkonen had been playing on a line with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin and that spot was filled against the Capitals by Charles Hudon, who had been playing on the fourth line.

“Not a bad thing for Charlie to go up there with Domi and Drouin and see how those three can react,” Julien said after the morning skate. “I think there’s good communication there for sure. There’s no doubt there’s some excitement there sometimes when the three are together, just like Jo and Domi together. The two of them seem to enjoy playing together. I don’t think it’s much different with those three guys, but whether it’s the right fit with what we have or not.”

When asked if Hudon has the potential to be a top-six forward on a regular basis, Julien said: “I don’t know if I should answer those questions … the top six. I think it’s up to the player to prove that. There’s a lot of things that come into top-six players. First of all, you got to be able to produce and try and produce on a regular basis. You have to be able to play against other teams’ top lines. There’s a lot of things that come into play. Sometimes those guys need some time to get some more experience before they’re capable of doing that. I think what I see in Charles is he’s got a good upside … a really good upside that we like and we just got to stay patient and keep giving him those opportunities that come up.”

Heading into Thursday night’s game, Hudon had 2-1-3 totals in eight games and was minus-2 while averaging 10:03 of ice time.

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