Montreal looked to finish up their four-game road trip on a winning note on Sunday night in Chicago and received their best goaltending performance of the season en route to a 2-0 victory.
The Habs made a pair of changes from their winning lineup on Saturday in Winnipeg. Charlie Lindgren (still sporting his St. John’s IceCaps mask from last season) got the nod for his first NHL start of the season while Jacob de la Rose subbed in for Charles Hudon. Hudon is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
As they did against the Jets, Montreal got off to a good start and matched Chicago’s intensity early on. However, the Blackhawks started to take control as the period went on. Paul Byron was called for a faceoff violation near the midway mark, putting the woeful penalty kill of the Canadiens to the test. Chicago moved the puck around with little resistance but weren’t able to beat a sharp Lindgren.
The successful penalty kill didn’t buoy Montreal, however, as they remained on their heels for most of the rest of the period. Lindgren made a very strong sprawling save on Jonathan Toews with less than two minutes to go to keep the game scoreless. Jonathan Drouin took a completely unnecessary and stupid high sticking penalty on Tommy Wingels with 15 seconds left in the frame to give the Blackhawks another power play heading into the second. Shots on goal in the first were 14-9 for the home side.
Montreal killed off the penalty but the early man advantage for Chicago put them on their heels for the majority of the frame. At times, it looked like the Hawks were on a perpetual power play with the Canadiens looking completely disorganized in the defensive zone. However, Lindgren held the fort to keep them off the board.
On one of the rare occasions where the puck made it to Chicago’s zone, Brent Seabrook took a delay of game penalty which seemed to settle the Habs down. While they didn’t score, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had chances and the team woke up a bit after that. Seabrook took his second minor minutes later but again, Montreal was unable to get one past Corey Crawford. The shots on goal in the period were once again 14-9 for Chicago, a number that really made the period look closer than it actually was.
The Habs came out a lot more prepared for the third. They played with a lot more speed and aggression and it paid off. Galchenyuk set up Drouin on a partial break and he snapped one past Crawford to open the scoring. Phillip Danault nearly doubled the lead on a shorthanded breakaway but Chicago’s netminder closed the door. Minutes later, Max Pacioretty saved an icing with a nice tip at centre ice and hustled in after the puck. He was able to settle it down long enough for the Canadiens to gain control. Danault got the puck to Joe Morrow who fired home his first as a Hab (earning his second point of the night along the way).
Predictably, Chicago had one last flurry in them in the dying minutes but Lindgren capably held the fort while making a couple of big stops (not to mention some unorthodox ones as is his style). He was able to stymie them the rest of the way to earn his first career shutout. Lindgren made 38 saves in the win while Crawford turned aside 33 of 35 Montreal shots after the Habs peppered him with 17 shots in the final frame. Both teams were unsuccessful with the man advantage, going 0/3.
HW Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Charlie Lindgren – Was this really in doubt? Lindgren was nothing short of spectacular in this one. He was steady, didn’t cough up too many rebounds, and made the key saves at important times, something Carey Price and (to a lesser extent) Al Montoya have not done enough this season. He certainly has earned himself another start.
Stats: 38 saves on 38 shots, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%
2nd Star: Jonathan Drouin – He didn’t get off to a great start but once Montreal got their power plays in the second period, he woke up in a big way. His speed on the game-winner was particularly strong as it looked as if he got quicker even with the puck on his stick. It wasn’t his flashiest game but in the end, it was a pretty effective one.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 4 shots, 1 giveaway, 2 takeaways, 1 block, 5/12 faceoffs (41.7%)
3rd Star: Alex Galchenyuk – Galchenyuk had a lot of pep in his step in this one. He looked to be a lot more assertive with the puck on his stick and he looked a fair bit quicker than he has been for most of the season. The chemistry isn’t quite there yet on a regular basis with Drouin but he’s doing enough to earn himself a longer look and considering he started the week on the fourth line, that’s still pretty good.
Honourable Mention: Joe Morrow – To be honest, I don’t think Morrow played that well but he did pick up a crucial goal and had a hand on both goals in the game so that has to count for something. That will earn him another look in the lineup very soon. I’ll toss an extra honourable mention to Andrew Shaw who once again played a gritty and very effective game.