As the final week leading up to the trade deadline got underway, the Habs tried to stop the latest losing streak on Tuesday night. They were unable to do so despite playing an excellent road game, ultimately losing the game 3-2 in overtime, earning a point in the process (or becoming one more point away from a lower final position in the standings, depending on your outlook). They faced an injury-depleted Flyers team that is fighting for their playoff positioning despite the mentioned injuries.
Philly would be tested once again, as they were now without Wayne Simmonds for this match, and the coaching staff also decided that newly acquired Petr Mrazek wasn’t ready to make his Flyers debut, so the Habs got to face Alex Lyon who was playing his fifth NHL contest. On the Habs side of the pregame, Nicolas Deslauriers and his freshly signed two-year deal was back in the lineup. Only in Montreal can signing a fourth line player create this many waves. To me, Deslauriers’ obvious passion for the jersey makes this an excellent signing even if no stats available can truthfully defend said signing. It really reminds me of Steve Begin.
The start of the game was played with good pace as both teams appeared hungry for the two points early on. Hits were numerous and loose pucks were hotly contended as neither team was really able to impose their will on the opposition. With six minutes expired in the period, Tomas Plekanec put one of his usual awkward shots on net that had little chance of going in. With a youngster in net, Plekanec was able to surprise and get the puck past Lyon, but as the puck sat on the line, Lyon was able to cover enough of the puck to warrant a whistle and keep the game scoreless. Plekanec would also be the recipient of the next scoring chance on his next shift and this time Lyon, came up with a solid save. Lyon’s second sharp stop sparked the Flyers to push back against a Habs team that had clearly taken control of the period. They controlled the next five minutes of play as Carey Price looked like his former self, making most of his efforts in this period look easy.
The line of Phillip Danault, Alex Galchenyuk, and Charles Hudon had an active second half of the period, and it finally paid off with 2:13 to play. Hudon controlled the puck deep in the Flyers’ zone before coming out and finding Karl Alzner. Jeff Petry took that opportunity to play fourth forward and crashed the net just in time to deflect Alzner’s shot through young Lyon for a 1-0 lead that they would hold for the rest of the period.
The opening of the second period did not portray David Schlemko in the best light as the defender made a soft play on the puck in his own zone to allow Sean Couturier a golden opportunity to tie the game but Price came up big with a calm save. On the next shift, Brendan Gallagher hit the post with a shot from high-slot after a nice pass over from Plekanec. As has become quite regular of late, Galchenyuk controlled the puck in the offensive zone to create a fantastic scoring chance for the Habs but Danault was unable to finish the play, leaving the Flyers within striking distance.
On the following shift, Jordie Benn attempted to jump into the play as Deslauriers ran a successful cycle game down-low in the Flyers’ zone. In doing so, he ran directly into Claude Giroux and was called for interference. The Flyers lethal power play wasted little time in exposing the Habs terrible road-PK. Shayne Gostisbehere started off the festivities by blasting a shot to Price’s head. On the next play, Giroux lured Jeff Petry to expose the slot before finding Nolan Patrick to a tip-in to tie the game.
The goal appeared to spark the Habs as they fought back intensely after being scored on. Near the midway point of the period, Brandon Manning and Deslauriers would drop the mitts, as Deslauriers defended an earlier shot by Manning to Galchenyuk. Deslauriers clearly got the better of the fisticuffs, landing a few solid punches in the process.
The Flyers started the second half of the period by pressuring the Montreal defenders into a series of bad turnovers. The result was a second penalty for Montreal; this time it was Artturi Lehkonen who was guilty of a trip. The man advantage was once again quite dangerous for the Flyers. This time the Habs were able to bend without breaking, thanks in large part to Price and one presence from his best friend. With three minutes to play in the period, Giroux made a nifty play in the Habs zone, but Price was equal to that effort also. Price made one last highlight reel stop with only 30 seconds to play as Giroux and Voracek were left all alone after an ill-advised pinch by Petry to keep it tied after forty minutes.
The third period began with the most tentative efforts of the night as neither team appeared interested in offering a scoring chance to the opposition. Despite this last statement, it was clear that the Flyers had more on the line in the opening five minutes as they desired the two points more. With the play firmly upheld in the Montreal zone, it was only a matter of time before they took the lead. However, Price was standing on his head, so the Flyers’ lead was postponed.
This was all the Habs needed as Brendan Gallagher outworked Manning to create a goal for the Canadiens at 11:13 of the third. He sent the puck to the front of the net, with Byron one-timing a pass toward Plekanec. Plekanec held the puck and the defenders’ attention long enough to liberate Byron, then returning the puck to Little Paul who had open net to put the Habs ahead 2-1. Lehkonen followed that with a glorious chance of his own, but young Lyon held his ground.
With the Habs seemingly in control of the game, Danault took a slashing minor. For the first time of the night, the Habs penalty kill was quite effective, keeping the Flyers from even establishing a presence in their zone with the extra man. After successfully killing the penalty, Victor Mete started a quick break to Pacioretty who immediately sent it across to Jonathan Drouin. Drouin would skate in and hit his league-leading 750th post of the season. I apologize for the hyperbole, but it seems like Drouin might want to practice hitting that post a little less, because it’s all he ever does during games. The missed chance would haunt the Habs as the Flyers were able to tie the game with 1:25 to play and the goaltender pulled. The point shot by Voracek hit Pacioretty before finding its way between the legs of Alzner and Price to send this game to overtime.
The overtime consisted of the usual barrage of scoring opportunities. In the opening sequence, Pacioretty left Voracek all alone in front of Price. This resulted in Price having to make a first big save in the overtime period. Galchenyuk then lost Giroux in transition which created a second chance for the Flyers. Galchenyuk would quickly attempt to make up for his mistake as he tip-toed around a Flyers defender and set up Lehkonen with a glorious chance that would have ended the game if not for a brilliant back-check by Valtteri Filppula. Voracek then took the puck and used Joe Morrow as a screen to beat Price and end the game.
Observation of the Night
I have no idea if teams are seriously inquiring about any of Alzner, Benn, or Schlemko, but here’s hoping this is the reason Jakub Jerabek remains on the sideline. All three of these defenders fill the same need on a roster, and quite frankly, all three have struggled mightily this season as the Habs continue to hope one of them can offer more than they are capable of. Jerabek can at least offer some puck-handling abilities. It will be interesting to see what happens to this roster once next week’s deadline has come and gone. I surely hope that fans will be treated to a more interesting lineup than what we’ve seen of late with Deslauriers and Jerabek sitting and Nikita Scherbak being returned to Laval.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star – Carey Price
It has been a long time since fans have been treated to a game of the real Carey Price. It’s been a long time with Price was this calm, cool, and collected around his crease for a full 60 minutes. Interesting that during a game where Schlemko was a giveaway machine, and Benn and Alzner continued to struggle, Price managed to lessen the damage by being awesome.
Stats: 30 saves on 33 shots, 2.98 GAA, .909 SV %, 61:26 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Tomas Plekanec
I’m a big fan of the Habs seeking to trade Plekanec but give the player his due. He was all over the ice tonight and earned his ice time. Now, if only he could provide this much effort on a nightly basis… and find a way to stop hitting the opposition’s goaltender squarely in the team logo. He even made an excellent play being patient on the second goal of the night for the Canadiens before giving Byron his empty-netter.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, 17:48 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Charles Hudon
This could have been Hudon or linemate Galchenyuk as both continued to be the team’s most consistently dangerous forwards offensively. Hudon had a bit more jam on this night, and I’ve included Galchenyuk on numerous occasions in this space, so Hudon gets the nod tonight.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 0 shots, 1 hit, 12:53 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Jeff Petry
Petry played a whale of a first period to set the tone for the Canadiens. Unfortunately for him, his second period is likely what keeps him from the top-three players on the night. He was effective in the third, but almost cost the Habs the game on a few occasions in the second half of the middle frame. If he could find a way to consistently play like he did in the first, well, I guess he wouldn’t be paid like a second pairing player.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 3 shots, 4 hits, 26:05 T.O.I.