The Habs were back on the ice to defend their three-game win streak on Saturday night as they travelled to the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata to battle the equally surprising Senators. The injury to Tomas Plekanec meant some shuffling on the fourth line. Coach Claude Julien opted for some muscle as Charles Hudon was scratched. Andrew Shaw and Nicolas Deslauriers both returned to the Montreal lineup to play with Matthew Peca. The injury to Victor Mete meant that the blue remained intact from Thursday night’s outing against the Blues. It was a familiar matchup between the pipes as Craig Anderson was called upon to face Carey Price.
The action on the ice was every bit as promised as both teams opted for speed and accepted some mistakes from their youthful lineups. The result was a 4-3 Senators overtime victory, a game that the Habs didn’t really deserve outside of the first period.
The Sens attacked right off the opening faceoff as an awkward pinch by Mike Reilly forced Price to make a first solid save. Price’s save created an odd-man rush as Max Domi’s speed opened some room for Artturi Lehkonen who was tripped by Thomas Chabot for the first power play of the night. The man advantage looked dangerous early but ultimately came up empty.
On the shift that followed the penalty, a good forecheck by Peca earned him a stick to the face via Chris Wideman which meant another power play. This time, they capitalized as Domi fired one five-hole on Anderson thanks to a Brendan Gallagher screen.
Mixed lines on the man advantage meant a make-shift line of Lehkonen-Danault-Byron took to the ice after the goal. They quickly transitioned into the Ottawa zone where Lehkonen and Byron completed some tic-tac-toe passing to feed Danault for his first of the season.
Ottawa would not quit though as Karl Alzner blindly threw the puck behind his net directly to Mark Stone. Stone flipped the puck to the front of the net where Chris Tierney returned it to Stone for a quick one-timer that beat Price.
As the second half of the period began, Gallagher was guilty of a rather stupid and undisciplined hit on Mark Borowiecki that gave the Sens their first power play of the night. The Sens only got one good look against Price, a crossbar by Maxime Lajoie.
With four minutes to play in the period, the Habs restored their two-goal lead when Kotkaniemi’s strong forecheck allowed Joel Armia to circle the Sens zone and find a streaking Paul Byron. Montreal escaped the period with a 3-1 lead, but they spent the rest of the period in their zone and with 21 seconds to play, Noah Juulsen took a slashing minor.
Back on the man advantage to start the second period, the Sens were not able to score. However, the sequence pushed the Habs on their heels and this set the tone for the first five minutes of the period. The momentum was finally shifted by Montreal’s top trio of Tatar-Danault-Gallagher who got going and created a few interesting chances that were stopped by Anderson.
Near the midway point of the period, Danault fanned on a dump in. This unfortunate situation had the Sens counter-attacking with the Habs not controlling gaps and zones. Mikkel Boedker was able to get a step on Jordie Benn on the outside. Benn was likely thinking he had successfully guided Boedker behind the net where Xavier Ouellet would then handle the speedy forward. Instead, Boedker took a shot from an impossible angle (from behind the red line, in fact) and caught Price cheating down low. The shot banked off Price and into the net to make it a 3-2 contest.
The bad goal allowed by Price stunned the Habs who were now watching the Sens skate circles around them. On the shift that followed the 3-2 goal, Lehkonen was called for tripping which didn’t help matters. With 20 seconds left in the man advantage, Danault got caught in no man’s land on the penalty kill and became a spectator to the pass from Bobby Ryan to Matt Duchene. Duchene had Price at his mercy and didn’t miss such a wide-open shot to tie the game.
With five minutes left in the period, the Habs would get another man advantage thanks to a Christian Jaros hooking minor. However, the power play was far too cute instead of being assertive and looking for plays toward the opposition net.
The third period started and the Habs apparently left their hustle in the locker room as they appeared content to dump and change. Hyperbolically, it like the 2017-2018 Habs had returned, hopefully not the start to a trend.
The opening half of the third period was so sloppy by both teams that scoring chances were non-existent because passed simply weren’t being completed. It is worth noting though that the Sens were far hungrier than the Habs, and so they won the puck races and were able to keep Montreal hemmed in their zone for the most part.
As the second half of the period started, the Sens were finally able to get a chance as the Stone and Tierney duo were at it again. After an initial save on a one-timer, Price was unable to control the rebound that went straight to Ryan Dzingel. Price slid across making a sprawling save. The rebound also hovered around the net as Alzner was forced to make a save before Price was able to get in position and stop the play. Jeff Petry was guilty of tackling a Senator on the play, so the Sens were headed to the man advantage. Luckily for the Habs, the power play was atrocious and so the Habs came out of the sequence unscathed.
The return to even strength meant a return to not skating for the Habs who, for the first time this season, really relied on Carey Price to save their collective bacon and get them a point in the standings and make it to overtime.
The overtime wasn’t much better for the Habs. Lehkonen-Danault-Petry started the period and spent their entire 40-second shift defending before Drouin-Reilly-Domi got on the ice to create the only Habs chance of the period. Once Jonathan Drouin coughed up the puck, a bad defensive play by Reilly led to the first important Price save. Finally, a Petry shot gone 10-feet wide resulted in a Tierney breakaway with Price bailing his defender once again. Danault lost the faceoff which allowed a Duchene-to-Stone one-timer to end the game.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Brendan Gallagher
Tonight’s performance was far from Gallagher’s best effort, but he remained just about the only Hab to be aggressive and offensively dangerous for the entire three periods. What else is new? Well, he lacked discipline in taking a penalty on a questionable hit.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 4 shots, 3 hits, 14:40 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Paul Byron
Byron was the best forward for Montreal in the first period and then disappeared after that. No one else stepped up though so the effort is good enough for a second star nomination on this night.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 17:01 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Max Domi
Domi made many plays to set up Drouin and Lehkonen in the first and was one of the few players who was still able to stand out positively throughout the night.
Stats: 1 goal, -1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 17:33 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Matthew Peca
Deslauriers and Shaw were inserted into the lineup and were complete liabilities. Peca was moved back to centre on that line and had a quiet night. The honourable mention nomination comes from the fact that he had to adapt to playing with two guys that just don’t fit his style and managed to still look like the better player on the line. At this point, I’m entirely in favour of Julien playing a Hudon-Peca-Scherbak line on Tuesday because I don’t want to see Deslauriers and Shaw on a line. Just too much slow.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 3 hits, 10:32 T.O.I.