Thursday night’s Game 5 was do or die for the Habs as their season hung in
the balance. For 40 minutes the game was close but Montreal ran out of gas
at the end, falling 6-1 to the Senators, a score that certainly did not reflect
how well the Canadiens played early on. The season is now over as Ottawa
wins the series in five games.
In the first period, Montreal came out with lots of enthusiasm and energy and
picked up a couple of above average scoring chances in the opening minutes.
Then the bad luck came as Zack Smith took advantage of a terrible rebound from
Peter Budaj, sliding it into a largely vacated net before the game was three
minutes old. After that, the Habs threw everything but the kitchen sink at
Craig Anderson but as he has done all season and series long, the Ottawa
netminder turned everything aside. Then the bad luck came…again.
The Senators had a two-on-one after a flurry of Montreal chances; the first shot
hit the post but no one remembered to cover the trailer and Cory Conacher made
no mistake putting one into an open cage. Daniel Alfredsson took a late
interference penalty (with less than a minute to go) and the Canadiens’
powerplay, which had been scuffling, finally took advantage. P.K. Subban
one-timed a pass from Andrei Markov past Anderson to cut the deficit in half
heading into the second period.
The second frame yielded a lot of what we have seen in this series. The
powerplay went back to struggling and between those opportunities the Habs
carried the early play. Just before the midway mark of the period, the
teams traded too many men penalties. Montreal took the first one and
nearly scored their first shorthanded goal but Colby Armstrong’s breakaway shot
drew iron instead of the back of the net. When the Habs were on the man
advantage, the bad luck curse struck yet again. A Tomas Plekanec centering
pass to Brendan Gallagher hit the rookies’ skate and sent the Sens on a
two-on-one. Plekanec pushed Kyle Turris into the net while backchecking
and the puck eventually was banked off him past Budaj. The real kicker on
that goal was that if had the pass been on target and/or Gallagher was able to
corral it, it was a tap in into a wide open net. That deflated Montreal’s
sails as they were able to generate much in the rest of the second.
Unfortunately for Montreal, they were out of gas to start the period and had
nothing left to try to mount a comeback. The Habs took three penalties,
all of which were of the unnecessarily lazy variety and the Sens made them pay
each time; Daniel Alfredsson, Conacher, and Erik Condra all beat Budaj whose
first career playoff start was not particularly impressive. He made 23
saves in the loss while Anderson was stellar once again, turning aside all but
one of 34 Montreal shots. Both teams had five powerplay chances, Ottawa
scored on three while Montreal’s lone goal came with the man advantage.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Rene Bourque – It’s games like this (heck, the whole
series really) that makes me glad he has three more years left on his deal.
He had a shooters mentality early on – although he missed the net quite often –
and was one of the few forwards who didn’t mail it in at the end. If he
can play like this next year, he’ll be primed for a big season.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 3 shots (9 attempts), 15:12 TOI
2nd Star: P.K. Subban – Through 40 minutes he was the Habs’
best player. However, I dropped him down a spot as I didn’t like his third
period effort at all. He got away with two automatic penalties going after
Cory Conacher before taking a retaliatory penalty with a little under five
minutes to go (earning him a seat on the bench the rest of the night). But
when the game was within reach though, he played quite well.
Stats: 1 goal, -1 rating, 4 shots, 2 blocks, 23:03 TOI
3rd Star: Tomas Plekanec – He has taken a lot of heat this
series and I don’t think it’s justified. Tonight, he did exactly what he
did all series long, generate some scoring chances, win faceoffs, and play well
in his own end. All in all, that’s not bad beyond the fact that he didn’t
score – although his assist tonight gave him the outright team lead there.
Stats: 1 assist, -2 rating, 5 shots (game high), 13/26 faceoffs (50%),
Honourable Mention: Jeff Halpern – I think he was more of an
offensive threat in this game (plus Game 4) than he was in his entire stint with
the Habs. He forechecked hard, went to the net, and shot at the right
times. I’m not too confident that he’ll be back but games like this one
will certainly give Marc Bergevin something to think about.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 3 shots, 7/13 faceoffs (54%), 15:37 TOI
Stat of the Night: There were just 38 hits in this game, a
total that accurately reflects the amount of physical play in the game.
This total is nearly three times lower than Game 4 (107).
With the season now over, I would expect several players to be called by
their respective national teams to suit up for the World Championships.
Several teams left a few spots open on their roster for players eliminated early
from the postseason and with the tournament at the halfway point, expect some
players to confirm they’re heading over as soon as Friday.