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Montreal Canadiens

Arber Xhekaj Shines for Canadiens In Loss To Dallas Stars

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens failed to hand the Dallas Stars their first regulation loss of the season, losing 5-2  in a defence-optional game at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens controlled the majority of the even-strength shots but failed to match the Stars when it came to generating quality scoring chances, resulting in their first loss at home this season.

X-Factor

Arber Xhekaj is quickly making a name for himself in the NHL, and not just because he can ragdoll NHL veterans with the same level of strain that most people show while unwrapping a popsicle on a hot summer day.

It’s fun to watch him Hulk out, but he’ll need to do more if he’s to stay in the Canadiens’ lineup. On Saturday night, Xhekaj made the perfect case for an extended stay in Montreal.

The gritty defenceman showed off the softer side of his hands against the Stars, using the perfect amount of force to saucer a pass to Jake Evans, which lead to the Canadiens’ first goal of the game. It’s worth noting that Xhekaj blocked a shot in the defensive zone just before joining the rush.

But he wasn’t done there. Xhekaj followed up his great assist by scoring his first career NHL goal, an incredible achievement given he went undrafted in both the OHL and NHL.

Xhekaj forced his way onto the roster from the first day of development camp, never missing an opportunity to get involved in the play, whether with fists or points.

He gives Bell Centre fans a reason to cheer, and opposing fans a reason to jeer while also secretly wishing he would play for their favourite team. There are few better stories in the league at the moment than Xhekaj’s quick rise to NHL fame.

Fourth Line Standouts

The oft-maligned Mike Hoffman scored his first goal of the season, and though he’s been receiving his fair share of criticism, it should be noted the fourth line has put up some spectacular possession numbers since Hoffman was shifted to the bottom of the lineup.

Evans also had a very solid game, continuing his longstanding tradition of making the most out of limited ice time.

With Rem Pitlick filling in for the injured Juraj Slafkovsky, the fourth line finished the night by controlling over 70 percent of the shots, the only line to finish above 55 percent in that respect.

They were caught napping in the third period, which led to Joe Pavelski’s hat-trick goal, but it’s only fair to say the fourth line probably shouldn’t be facing one of the most consistent goal-scorers in the league, especially not when the Canadiens are playing at home.

Penalty Kill

The Canadiens had only allowed one goal on the penalty kill this season, owing to strong performances by their goaltenders, but their luck ran out on Saturday night.

With Brendan Gallagher serving an interference penalty, Pavelski scored with a fantastic backhand move, the first of two power-play goals on the night for the Dallas Stars forward.

Even though their penalty-kill teams have been praised at length this season, it’s not surprising the Canadiens allowed a pair of goals while down a man. They simply allow too many shots on net in penalty kill situations, and it would be unreasonable to expect Jake Allen to bail them out all season.

The Canadiens are back in action on Tuesday night, facing the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre.

(All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via NaturalStatTrick)

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