Following a strong showing on the road in Ottawa, the Habs went to Chicago on Sunday looking to make it two straight road victories. It was far from a pretty effort but the penalty kill stepped up to help Montreal get a 3-2 win.
Even though Noah Juulsen was cleared to return, Claude Julien opted to keep the same lineup that beat Ottawa on Thursday which meant that the youngster was a healthy scratch while Carey Price once again got the nod between the pipes.
The game got off to a particularly dull start. Tomas Tatar took a hooking penalty early on but Chicago’s power play was ineffective. As the penalty ended, the Habs came back the other way and Max Domi set up a shot for Jonathan Drouin but Corey Crawford made the stop.
On the ensuing faceoff, Domi won the draw and the Canadiens got control in the zone. The puck worked its way over to Mike Reilly who threw one towards the net. It was knocked down and Domi was right there to put the rebound past Crawford to open up the scoring.
A minute and a half later, Montreal doubled their lead. The fourth line established a cycle and Kenny Agostino had the puck behind Chicago’s net and sent it to Shea Weber at the point. He blasted one home and it looked like the Canadiens were in total control.
The next several minutes featured nothing in the way of chances. Just past the 11-minute mark, both Artturi Lehkonen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi fanned on shots and that was pretty much it for scoring chances for them in the period.
Shortly after that, Tatar revisited the penalty box as he went off for hooking but again, the penalty kill kept Chicago at bay. However, the Blackhawks got a third opportunity with the man advantage as Weber went off for delay of game with just under two minutes to go. This time, the Habs weren’t able to shut them down as Patrick Kane wristed a shot past a screened Price who was looking the wrong way around the screen to get the home side on the board before the buzzer sounded on the period. Shots on goal in the frame were 10-7 for the home side.
Once again, the second period got off to a slow start. Just before the four-minute mark, Brendan Gallagher got around a pair of Blackhawks to create a two-on-one with Tatar. Gallagher got the pass across but Tatar’s rough night continued as he rang one off the post.
Three minutes later, Paul Byron got around Brandon Manning for a partial breakaway but Crawford made the stop. Byron went to the dressing room right after that play and missed most of the rest of the period.
For the better part of the first half of the period, the Blackhawks were getting some shots through but nothing too much in the way of dangerous opportunities. Montreal looked to have a good chance with the fourth line as Nicolas Deslauriers fed Michael Chaput but he wasn’t able to get a shot off.
Seconds later, off a faceoff in the Montreal zone, Dominik Kahun sent a perfect cross-ice feed to Kane who one-timed it past Price to tie the game with a little over seven minutes remaining.
Mere seconds after that, Montreal got their first opportunity with the power play as Marcus Kruger was sent off for holding. As is normally the case with Montreal’s man advantages, nothing came of it. Their best chance came just after it as Deslauriers looked to have a breakaway but was tied up from behind.
The Habs got another opportunity as John Hayden received a roughing penalty after Deslauriers gave Crawford a snow shower. To say that Montreal’s power play was utterly dreadful would be an understatement – they won the faceoff and it went downhill from there as the period ended on a sour note for the road side. Shots on goal in the period were 12-8 for the Blackhawks.
The third period was one that saw a long parade to the penalty box. After the Habs did nothing with their carryover advantage, Chicago had one of their better opportunities but Alex DeBrincat missed the net on a two-on-one. Reilly turned it over seconds later which led to Tatar earning the penalty hat-trick, sending the Blackhawks to a power play.
The Canadiens did a good job keeping Chicago to the perimeter and it was Chaput that had the best opportunity, stealing the puck and skating around DeBrincat to get a scoring chance on Crawford. Just as Tatar was stepping out of the box, Jordie Benn took a double minor for high-sticking. This time, Chicago did a better job at getting some shots through but Price was up to the task.
Then it was the Habs’ turn with the man advantage. Brandon Saad was called for interference just shy of the midway mark of the period and just over a minute later, Connor Murphy picked up a high-sticking call on a follow-through. During the five-on-three, Montreal actually looked decent, generating a few good shots but they couldn’t get one past Crawford.
The Habs then decided it was time for more penalty killing practice. Artturi Lehkonen was called for tripping and to up the degree of difficulty, the Habs were either breaking their sticks or losing them altogether. Fortunately, Price kept the puck out despite the struggles in front of him.
Gallagher felt like seven penalty kills weren’t enough in this one so he took a needless high-sticking call of his own and the Habs continued to struggle to hold onto their sticks. Once again though, Price withstood the shooting gallery. All in all, the Habs spent a full ten minutes shorthanded in the period and didn’t allow a goal.
It was looking like the game was heading for overtime but some rare five-on-five play benefitted Montreal. With a little over a minute to go, Kotkaniemi got the puck to Petry who fired one at the net. Tatar, who had done nothing to help Montreal up to this point, finally did something positive as he redirected it home for the game-winner (and despite that, he’s not landing one of the three stars here…). Chicago pulled Crawford in the dying seconds but only had one decent opportunity as the Habs held on for the win.
Price was sharp in this one, turning aside 37 of 39 shots to pick up the win. Crawford hasn’t been at his best lately and wasn’t here either while kicking away 25 of 28 opportunities. The Habs were 0/4 on the power play while Chicago was 1/8 over their 14:58 of power play time.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Carey Price – In the two games against Ottawa, Price was good but the team didn’t need to count on him too much. This one was different. The seemingly never-ending trip to the penalty box (on justifiable calls too) put a lot of extra pressure on Price but he stepped up and arguably stole one for the Habs with his performance in the third.
Stats: 37 saves on 39 shots, 2.00 GAA, .949 SV%
2nd Star: Shea Weber – The defence just falls into place so much better with him in the lineup. Weber was a presence in all facets of this one, scoring a goal on a blast from the point in the first and did yeoman’s work shorthanded while playing nearly half the game. They’re certainly not easing him back in.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 5 shots, 3 hits, 3 blocks, 29:32 TOI
3rd Star: David Schlemko – I know he’s not a particularly popular member of the back end but let’s give credit where credit is due. Schlemko did a solid job blocking shots and was another defensive anchor on the penalty kill. If there were teams scouting him (as the Habs are still looking to move a defenceman), they’d have liked what they saw from him.
Stats: 0 points, 2 shots, 1 takeaway, 5 blocks, 20:45 TOI
Honourable Mention: Michael Chaput – This was his best game in a Montreal uniform so far. At five-on-five, the fourth line played well and he was a big part of that. He also logged the most shorthanded ice time of any Montreal forward and did a strong job in that department as well which earns him the nod here.
Stats: 1 assist, 1 rating, 1 block, 3/7 faceoffs, 14:10 TOI (7:32 SH TOI)