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In the Habs' Room: Joel Armia's great night ends on a sour note

Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia (40) scores on Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) in the first period in a game at Rogers Arena Jan. 21, 2021.
Montreal Canadiens forward Joel Armia (40) scores on Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) in the first period in a game at Rogers Arena Jan. 21, 2021.

Joel Armia had the most productive night of his NHL career with two goals and two assists in the Montreal Canadiens’ 7-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Thursday, but it ended on a sour note when he was blindsided by Vancouver defenceman Tyler Myers.

There was 2:28 remaining in the game when Myers delivered a shoulder to Armia’s head. There was no immediate call on the play, but the officials huddled and handed Myers a five-minute major and a match penalty after reviewing a video of the incident.

“He’s been diagnosed with a concussion and he’ll be out for a bit,” said head coach Claude Julien.

“When you look at the replay, I know (Myers) is 6-foot-7, but it seemed like a high hit,” said Julien. “Armia has a concussion, so there was contact to the head. I think the referees got it right by calling  a five-minute and a match penalty after reviewing it.”

Myers may face additional punishment. The NHL’s department of player safety has the option of reviewing the hit and Julien seemed to be lobbying for that action when he said: “I don’t control what happens with the league and any disciplinary action, but we’re trying to clean up our game by taking away hits on unsuspecting players and, in this case, Armia never saw him coming.”

The injury means that Julien will have to dip into his taxi squad for the first time this season Saturday when the Canadiens meet in a rubber match (7 p.m., CBC, SN, City, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio). Corey Perry and Michel Frolik have been waiting in the wings and it’s possible they could both be in the lineup because Paul Byron might not be available.

Byron left the game in the third period after he was hit on the foot by a slap shot from teammate Shea Weber.

“He’s going to evaluated a on a day-to-day basis,” said Julien. “He didn’t feel comfortable enough to finish the game (but) we’re off tomorrow and a lot can happen in two days. If we need to make adjustments, we’ll make them, but right now it’s too early to tell.”

Armia and Tyler Toffoli each scored twice as they built on their individual success in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Canucks Wednesday. In that game, the Canucks scored three power-play goals on six opportunities.

Montreal was shorthanded five times Thursday and gave up a power-play goal to Bo Horvat. Armia and Toffoli scored short-handed  goals. The Canadiens have scored four short-handed goals this season; they had six last season.

“We keep talking about staying out of the box and we have to find a way to be more disciplined,” said captain Weber. “We have to find that line to play on. We want to be a physical team, we want to be a team that’s hard to play against, but we have to find a way to stop taking penalties.”

The Canadiens took full advantage of the fact that the Canucks started backup goaltender Thatcher Demko and played with three rookies on defence. The Canucks are short-handed on the back end because Alexander Edler and Travis Hamonic were injured in Wednesday’s game. One of the rookies, Jalen Chatfield, made his NHL debut Wednesday, but left Thursday’s game in the first period when he suffered an upper-body injury.

Former Canadien Jordie Benn is coming off the COVID-19 list, but the Canucks will be stretched even further if Myers is suspended.

This was the first game this season in which the Canadiens won more than 50 per cent of their faceoffs and that was surprising because the team’s go-to centre, Phil Danault, played less than 11 minutes and won only four of his 12 draws. But the kids turned up the volume and Nick Suzuki won 11 of 18; Jesperi Kotkaniemi won five of eight and Jake Evans won seven of 13.

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