For all the times that the Habs deserved a better outcome and skated away empty-handed, one would think that a game like Thursday’s would have been an appropriate time to even that balance a bit and get two points despite playing terribly. This was not the case as the Habs lost 5-4 in regulation to the lowly Coyotes. The Coyotes had been winless in regulation and the Habs were capable of scoring on this night so perhaps Montreal could get away with it. Wrong. However, it’s difficult to say that the Habs earned a better fate as they allowed five goals and way too many quality scoring chances against the 31st ranked offence in Arizona. Simply unacceptable. Charlie Lindgren was not to blame either as he made many fantastic saves despite his 5 goals allowed.
The first half of the period was essentially as boring as hockey gets as both teams were hesitant, the Habs less so as they took advantage of this to dominate in terms of shots and possession, though they were not very dangerous. Charles Hudon was given the best scoring chance for Montreal, but he missed the net. In front of Lindgren, he faced little shots but the shots he did face were deflections that he had to be sharp on to avoid the usual first-period deficit. Near the midway point of the period, Karl Alzner’s lack of speed cost the Canadiens as he lost two successive races to loose pucks and the Coyotes had some extended pressure in the Montreal zone. Luckily for Alzner, Hudon would have none of this scenario. He left his position to help his defenders, won a puck battle, and skated the puck out of the zone. Chance would smile on the winger as the Coyotes were caught on a bad change, allowing Hudon to find a streaking Brendan Gallagher after entering the offensive zone. The result of the partial break for Gallagher was his backhand deke for a first period lead for the hometown team.
Only a few minutes later, a second Montreal goal started in their own zone. Jonathan Drouin ran a little interference on the defender while taking a hit to spring Alex Galchenyuk and Paul Byron on a 2-on-1. Galchenyuk showed his skill in threading the needle across to Byron who once again took full advantage of his time on top unit to get on the scoreboard and allow the Habs to return to the locker room up two goals.
The Drouin line looked particularly dangerous to start the period as both Byron and Galchenyuk had some quality chances turned aside. Zac Rinaldo then decided to challenge newly recalled Nicolas Deslauriers. Deslauriers completely destroyed Rinaldo in the fight, so much so that he needed some ice for his banged-up hand after the bout. Despite Deslauriers’ enthusiasm after the fight, it was Arizona that seemed to get their legs after it. An Andrew Shaw giveaway in his own zone landed on Brad Richardson’s stick for a one-timer that fooled Lindgren. Soon after the Coyotes marker, Jacob de la Rose was called for holding. After a few good saves by Lindgren, Shea Weber got called for delay of game, sending Arizona to a two-man-advantage for 30 seconds. As the second penalty expired, the Coyotes took a shot from the point, and Christian Dvorak found the rebound to tie the game.
This second goal seemed to stun the Canadiens who needed Lindgren to bail them out as the next few minutes were played exclusively in the Montreal zone. As play evened out, Clayton Keller was sent in all alone. Charlie Lindgren held his ground and made another save, sending the Habs on a rush up the ice where Tomas Plekanec found Joe Morrow who slapped one home. The goal gave Montreal a boost as they peppered Antti Raanta without success. It would cost them as the Coyotes once again evened the score, this time in the last minute of the period. Karl Alzner lost yet another foot race and this sent the Habs scrambling until the puck found an open Tobias Rieder who also slapped one home. But the period was not yet over! 30 seconds later, Arizona got sloppy in their defensive play and iced the puck with twelve seconds to play. This led to Plekanec winning the faceoff cleanly to Shea Weber who one-timed the puck straight into the top corner, sending the Habs to the intermission with the lead after a buzzer-beating brawl mostly due to incredibly frustrated Arizona players.
After the flurry of activity to end the second period, the Habs started the third on the man advantage. The power play looked like anything but as it was Derek Stepan who skated to two breakaways that were brilliantly stopped by Lindgren. The Coyotes would then get a power play of their own after a Gallagher trip and wasted little time taking advantage as Stepan made good on his third chance of the period after the initial shot bounced off Jordie Benn.
The Habs would then get a power play and not take advantage. At the end of it, the Coyotes would get a partial break that Lindgren broke up with a poke check, but not before a Shea Weber slash sent Arizona to another man advantage. The Coyotes were able to score as an off-balanced Brendan Perlini shot was tipped home by Christian Fischer for the first Coyotes lead of the night. With the prospect of being the first team to lose to the Coyotes in regulation, the Habs needed to get to work and they did just that. With 3:38 to play, Andrew Shaw scored while being dragged down by an Arizona defender. Shaw would be injured on the play. To add insult to the injury, the goal would be rightfully called back, allowing Arizona to win their first regulation game of the season after the Habs were unable to cash in on a late man advantage.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star – Charlie Lindgren
This wasn’t Lindgren’s best game and he did allow five goals. This being said, he made some gigantic saves to keep Montreal in this game longer than they likely deserved. Two notable examples of this are the two shorthanded breakaways gift-wrapped to Stepan in the 3rd period. Sloppy defensive play for a team built as a defensive team leaves this team losing to teams like Arizona and Twitter accounts buzzing with crazy requests all over.
Stats: 5 GA, 26 saves, 0.839SV%
2nd Star – Alex Galchenyuk
For the last two games, Galchenyuk has easily been the best Montreal forward. He works as hard, but has added working intelligently as he hasn’t been caught on the wrong side of puck battles. Also, he’s slowly looking like the 60-point player prior to last year’s knee injury. What’s the secret? Simple, he’s keeping his feet moving even while he’s dangling the puck. This small detail makes him such a more dangerous player, and Claude Julien is noticing it too as his ice time in critical situations has increased notably over the last two contests.
Stats: 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 5 shots, 20:02 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Tomas Plekanec
I must admit that I was entirely expecting Plekanec to score the tying goal in the dying moments of the game to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick. Plekanec was pummeled in his first fight of his 941-game career. In addition to this fight, Plekanec shed his usual offensive black hole-ness on this night as he was credited with two assists. If only he could be this productive with regularity.
Stats: 2 assists, +3, 1 shot, 17:49 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Paul Byron
Byron scored again and missed a lengthy list of other golden opportunities. As usual, he was in the right spot and only lacked some finish. If his hands were as quick as his legs, he’s likely be a 30-40 goal scorer, and he’s consistent to boot.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 4 hits, 19:13 T.O.I.