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Joel Armia’s hat trick helps Canadiens down short-handed Capitals 6-2

MONTREAL — Joel Armia scored his second career hat trick and the Montreal Canadiens grabbed a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Mike Hoffman also scored for Montreal. Mike Matheson collected two assists. 

Sam Montembeault made 24 saves as the Canadiens (31-42-6) snapped a four-game losing skid.

Dylan Strome and Nicklas Backstom scored for the Capitals. 

Darcy Kuemper made 25 saves as Washington (34-35-9) lost its third straight.

Freshly eliminated from playoff contention, the Capitals played short one man. Forward Anthony Mantha was ruled out with a lower-body injury and wasn’t replaced in the lineup. 

Strome grabbed a loose puck that found its way behind Joel Edmundson, zoomed along the boards and scored his 20th goal of the season for Washington 5:30 into the game.

The Canadiens responded with four second-period goals. Suzuki reached the end of Edmunsson’s clearance on the penalty kill to create a breakaway and tied the game at 3:42.

Montreal took the lead with a second short-handed goal at 7:52 when Armia whipped in a wrister from the left faceoff circle. 

Drouin then located Gallagher in the slot with a backhand pass behind the net to get the Habs up 3-1. 

Armia scored his second of the night, sending a slap shot past Kuemper, giving Montreal a 4-1 lead by the second intermission.  

Washington cut its deficit to two goals on the power play at 14:27 of the final frame. Strome found Backstrom in the slot to score his seventh of the season.

Armia completed his hat trick in an empty net then, with 17 seconds remaining, Hoffman added a sixth Montreal goal from the left face-off circle. 

PRIDE NIGHT — The Canadiens held their seventh annual Pride night and wore pre-game jerseys, set to be auctioned off in support of Montreal’s LGBTQ+ community. Forward Denis Gurianov did not participate. The Canadiens said in a statement that Gurianov cited family reasons. 

“We don’t know what the repercussions are (in Russia),” said Habs coach Martin St. Louis before the game. “I’m not judging (Gurianov) because I’ve never walked in his shoes so I respect his decision.” 

“I think we can support the organization and the league’s decision to hold these nights, to promote inclusivity and respect,” added Brendan Gallagher. “We can also respect our teammate’s decision, where back in Russia they have propaganda laws, to protect his family.” 

UP NEXT — The Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

The Panthers host the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2023.

Tristan D’Amours, The Canadian Press