Thursday’s playoff opener was full of excitement early on but it went from
bad to worse in a hurry for the Montreal Canadiens. The team that had only
lost two games in regulation when leading after 40 minutes blew a final period
lead – allowing three unanswered goals – while one of their better players down
the stretch went down and is likely to miss some time. All that leads to a
very costly Game 1 loss, 4-2 at the hands of the Senators.
The Bell Centre was full of energy at the beginning of the game and it
carried on in the early going as the Habs were controlling the play for the
first half of the period. Ottawa found their skating legs after that
though and pinned the Montreal defence deep in their own end on a few occasions
which quashed the momentum. For the longest time it felt like the game was
going to be scoreless heading into the second but Erik Karlsson re-directed a
Kyle Turris centering pass (on an unintentional give-and-go) past Carey Price to
give the Senators the 1-0 through twenty minutes.
The second period saw the Habs throw everything but the kitchen sink at Craig
Anderson but for the longest time, the Sens’ goaltender had an answer for every
shot. However, Rene Bourque finally got Montreal on the board as he
backhanded one past Anderson to square it at one. As the goal was being
announced over the PA system, the good fortunes ended. A terrible suicide
pass from Raphael Diaz to Lars Eller led to him being clocked by Eric Gryba.
Eller was motionless on the ice briefly before being carted off on a stretcher.
Gryba received a major penalty and a game misconduct, giving the Canadiens a
five minute powerplay. Brendan Gallagher gave Montreal their first lead of
the postseason as he one-timed a pass past Anderson. They had 27 shots in
the second period, setting a new franchise record for most shots in a single
period in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the Habs seemed to run out of energy in the third period.
Jakob Silfverberg tied it early on a shot that Price would love to have back and
Marc Methot got blew the eventual game winner past a heavily screened Montreal
goaltender. That killed any momentum the Canadiens had, as did a
rightfully disallowed goal that was waved off due to Brandon Prust high sticking
Anderson. Silfverberg received credit for his second of the night on a
goal that bounced in off P.K. Subban.
Anderson was by far the overall star of the game, turning aside 48 of 50
Montreal shots (a season high) while Price made 27 saves in the loss. The
Habs were 1/5 with the powerplay (they failed to score on a two man advantage in
the second; had they scored on it, this one may have ended differently) while
Ottawa was 0/2.
The full extent of Eller’s injuries are unknown but he was taken by ambulance
to a local hospital during the second intermission. It was confirmed that
he has at the very least suffered a broken nose, while he lost several teeth.
A concussion is also suspected but has not been confirmed. The video of
the hit is below:
HW 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: P.K. Subban – After struggling in the final few games
of the regular season, it was back to normal for Subban. His poise with
the puck was particularly impressive while he got involved physically as well.
(I’m not a huge fan of him launching himself against opponents but the one hit
he landed this way did give the Habs some momentum as well.) He also
certainly wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck.
Stats: 1 assist, -1 rating, 7 shots, 2 hits, 2 blocks, 28:01 TOI
2nd Star: Brendan Gallagher – I was tempted to give him the
first star nod but the fact that Subban played nearly half the game tipped the
scale. For a player making his playoff debut, he certainly didn’t look the
part. He played his usual aggressive style and crashed the net with
reckless abandon. His style of play lends itself well to postseason
action, I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot from him in this series.
Stats: 1 goal, -2 rating, 8 shots (game high), 2/4 faceoffs, 14:40 TOI
3rd Star: Rene Bourque – Goal scorers have a tendency to go
into slumps and right now it appears Bourque is emerging from one. His
backhand goal was a perfectly placed shot while he used his speed to get past
Ottawa defenders to create several scoring chances. This was one of his
better nights since returning from injury.
Stats: 1 goal, -1 rating, 5 shots, 2 hits, 15:16 TOI
Honourable Mention: The fourth line – The combination of Prust,
White, and Moen is a relatively new one but they were very effective for
Montreal in this one. They combined for nine hits and six shots on goal,
several of which were quality chances while controlling the play in Ottawa’s
zone on a lot of shifts. If they can keep up that effort in future games,
the Habs will be in good shape.
Stats of the Night: Montreal’s physical play has tended
to tail off after the first period in a lot of games lately and Thursday’s game
was no exception. The Habs had 14 hits in the first period but combined
for just ten the rest of the way. Tomas Plekanec was a startling 17-5
(77%) at the faceoff dot; the team as a whole won an impressive 61% of their
There will be little rest for both teams as the series resumes in less than
24 hours. Puck drop for Game 2 is at 7 PM on Friday. With Eller out,
I would expect Jeff Halpern to be re-inserted into the lineup.