On Thursday night, the Canadiens were back in action trying to halt their newest losing streak at two games. To do so, they travelled to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes in a game that promised to be more tightly contested than the sloppy scoring festival that occurred at the Bell Centre only one week ago. After missing Sebastian Aho in that game, Carolina had him back in the lineup for this one. For Montreal, Byron was in the lineup despite a nasty looking crash into the boards on Tuesday night. Other changes included Jordie Benn and Daniel Carr back in action as David Schlemko and Logan Shaw were watching this one. These changes proved ineffective as the Habs were never able to solve Cam Ward, losing 2-0 in the process of extending yet another losing streak.
The Habs came out skating hard on the opening shift and controlled the play in the Carolina zone, even if they mustered no shots for their effort. Their control of the game would not last long as with only one minute played, an errant pass by Jakub Jerabek lured Joe Morrow into committing the first infraction of the game. It was certainly not the desired first shift for Morrow who had played an excellent game on Tuesday night. The Carolina power play featured some good puck movement, but the Canes were not able to draw first blood. Carolina did create momentum though, so they controlled play for the few minutes following the man advantage. The Habs finally pushed back as the Max Pacioretty, Paul Byron, and Charles Hudon line got a good forecheck going to keep the Canes in their own zone.
Despite this good play, the Habs remained without a shot until the period passed the 15-minute mark. The Habs got their best scoring chance of the period when Jonathan Drouin gained the offensive zone and sent a cross-ice pass to Jerabek. Jerabek timed his pass with the streaking Morrow in front of the net, but the deflection went wide. With under four minutes to play in the period, Carey Price sent a pass past his defender, creating a scoring chance for Lee Stempniak in the process. Price would hustle back to his crease and make a nice shoulder save to stop the best scoring chance of the period as both teams returned to the locker room scoreless. In the final minutes of the period, the Habs really looked dangerous in the Carolina zone, something they surely hoped to carry with them to the second period.
However, they were unable to carry any momentum as they spent the opening three minutes of the period in their zone. At 17:17, the Habs lost yet another faceoff, a theme in this one as Montreal won just 21% of the draws. Lindholm fetched the puck behind his centre and slid it over to Brett Pesce who ripped a shot that was deflected to beat Price. The Habs pushed back after this initial goal, but that would fade by the midway point of the period as the Hurricanes slowly took over and spent more time in the Montreal zone.
The Habs doubled their efforts to start the second half of the game and were rewarded with some decent scoring chances from the sticks of Carr and Byron. With seven minutes to play, Jordie Benn cross-checked Jaccob Slavin into Price and was sent off for two minutes. The Habs did an awesome job at killing this penalty as there were only 20 seconds left before Carolina established any zone presence, and even that sequence was short as Byron Froese cleared the puck only 15 seconds later. The next sequence was played in the Carolina zone, but the defensive zone coverage there was without reproach until there were two minutes left, when Justin Faulk took a tripping penalty.
Montreal’s power play looked quite sharp as the Canes left Pacioretty wide-open to cover Galchenyuk’s one-timer. Jonathan Drouin found Pacioretty for two excellent scoring chances. The second chance created a large scrum in front of Cam Ward, a lucky bounce for Carolina since Pacioretty put home his rebound, but Ward got a quick whistle while never being in control of the puck, so no goal. The last minute and twelve seconds of the man advantage was never able to get organized as the period ended with a 1-0 Hurricanes lead.
The first two minutes of the third period was a goaltending show as Price was forced to make two excellent saves on streaking Hurricanes, while Gallagher was able to pick the pocket of Justin Faulk to get a partial break that Ward stopped. Gallagher ran himself out of room on the play, but the effort was excellent to watch. After this initial flurry of chances, the Canadiens really settled down and controlled the pace of the game as three lines successively had scoring chances in the Carolina zone. The only line unable to gain much zone time was the fourth.
With 11 minutes to play, Drouin and Galchenyuk completed a nifty passing play before Nicolas Deslauriers was absolutely robbed by Ward. With seven minutes to play, Jeff Petry got a good wrist shot on Ward, but little to no traffic was present, as was increasingly the case as the game wore on. The Canadiens were making Ward’s job simpler than it should have been considering the effort deployed on Montreal’s forechecking.
With slightly over five minutes to play, Morrow was left alone to defend by Jerabek. Morrow played softly on the puck, giving way too much space to Brock McGinn in front of Price’s net. McGinn would take advantage to make the score 2-0. As usual, Montreal got some good zone time to end the game. It was too little, too late though.
Observation of the Night
It’s hard to score when little to no players on the team are making their way to the slot and scoring from the ugly and painful areas on the ice. The Habs continue to refuse to commit to this style of play. Also, considering the enthusiasm (or lack thereof) in getting to these areas on the ice, it appears clear that some players are mailing it in at the first sign of a challenge from the opposition. Don’t believe me? Consider that the Habs are the league leaders in scoring one or less goals in a game. That’s not a good league lead to have. It might be time for management to accept the reality of the season and not commit to ideas like re-signing Tomas Plekanec.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star – Carey Price
It was not the busiest or shiniest night of his career but Price made some high-quality stops and kept the Habs in this game, likely longer than they really deserved. Price is used to this but it doesn’t mean he should be. He’s spectacular and the main reason this team still hopes to win every game. Tonight, his margin for error was non-existent, and he almost achieved it.
Stats: 23 saves, 2.00 GAA, .933 save %, 60:00 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Charles Hudon
Hudon continues to skate hard, play smart, and position himself to take advantage of playing with other players who are currently playing well in Byron and Pacioretty. Usually, this is where I’d complain that he must start producing, but he’s been better at that of late, so I’ll focus on the positivity of him continuing to generate some offensive chances.
Stats: 0 (+/-), 3 shots, 4 hits, 15:40 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Jonathan Drouin
One of the rare Canadiens that was skating all night long. He made some nice plays to Galchenyuk and Deslauriers but nothing would beat Ward on this night. He’s been turning it around of late; here’s hoping the results start to follow for his confidence and psyche heading into next season.
Stats: -1, 1 shot, 1 hits, 14:02 T.O.I.