The Habs tried to double up the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night as they undertook the back end of the only back-to-back on their 2018-2019 season. Tuesday’s impressive 5-2 victory on home ice was sure to lead to a motivated Senators group as they tried to defend their home ice. The goaltending matchup remained the same as Tuesday with Carey Price facing Craig Anderson. In a very strange move, Claude Julien sent Matthew Peca to the press box in favour of Nicolas Deslauriers. Regardless, Price kept the Habs in the game as the Sens played an intense first period. The Habs took over for the last 40 minutes of play and were rewarded with a 5-2 road win to sweep the mini-series.
As expected after Tuesday, the Senators came out flying as the Habs were hemmed into their zone for most of the opening half of the period. Near the five-minute mark, a point shot by Cody Ceci was expertly tipped by Magnus Paajarvi (helped by the poor coverage that Jeff Petry and David Schlemko executed) which forced Price to make a save that will undoubtedly be part of all the highlight packages. The Price show continued as the Sens created another four to five excellent opportunities, the best stop coming on a Brady Tkachuk breakaway glove save to rescue Brett Kulak’s offensive zone adventure. On the faceoff that followed said glove save, Phillip Danault was kicked out forcing Brendan Gallagher to take the draw. Colin White won the draw cleanly to Mark Stone who walked out and roofed a hard wrist-shot over Price’s shoulder.
The Habs fired right back 20 seconds later as a strong forecheck by Michael Chaput forced a turnover from Ryan Dzingel. Chaput sent the puck to Petry who fired from the point and scored on a shot that Anderson would like to see again.
Immediately after the midway point of the period, Zack Smith was given the first penalty of the game when he used his stick to give a shot to Max Domi’s privates. The play was undoubtedly a penalty, but Domi made sure to sell the cheap shot to ensure the penalty would be called. The Habs’ power play, as has been the norm this season, was ineffective, to say the least. One positive that came from the advantage was that the Habs continued to control the play once it was over.
In this final five minutes of the period, it was Anderson’s turn to answer Price as he repeated three glove saves on cross-ice one-timers, keeping the score tied at a goal apiece heading to the second period.
The second started much like the first ended as Danault’s line dominated the opening minute forcing Anderson to make three quality saves. This momentum was carried for the first ten minutes of the period, as the Sens regained composure and eventually succeeded at keeping the Habs to the perimeter, but not enough to get the puck out of their zone for any extended time.
With the shots 6-0 for the Habs, Matt Duchene gifted the Habs with a second power play on the night when he took an offensive zone slashing penalty. The man advantage was completely disorganized as the best chance of the sequence belonged to Chris Tierney as he was stopped by Price on a partial break after some poor puck management by Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Immediately after the power play, Danault was sent out to pivot Kotkaniemi’s line. Coach Julien was rewarded for that decision as a strong forecheck by Artturi Lehkonen forced a turnover that allowed Danault to make a nice backhanded pass to a streaking Paul Byron who one-timed it home for a 2-1 lead.
With a little under five minutes to play in the period, Kotkaniemi intercepted a clearing attempt by Anderson. He patiently waited for the Ottawa defender to open a seam and found Jonathan Drouin down low who in turn threaded the needle across the crease to Andrew Shaw who one-timed the puck home for a 3-1 lead.
With a two-goal lead, the Habs relaxed a little too much and paid the price. With 1:33 to play, Kulak’s difficult night continued (he was caught more than once trying to pinch offensive plays leaving Shea Weber on his own to defend) as he was called for holding. 23 seconds later, poor positioning on the penalty kill by Schlemko and Lehkonen opened the cross-ice pass to Dzingel. Price came across and made the initial save, but Colin White was all over the rebound to make it a one-goal game heading to the third period.
It was a much slower start to the third as cautious play took over. After a few good saves by Price, an extended shift in the offensive zone by the Danault line paid off. The puck was handled by Petry at the point who found Tomas Tatar cheating towards the blue line trying to get open. Tatar saw the traffic in front of Anderson and one-timed the puck which was deflected by Gallagher to score. The puck hit the post, came back and hit Anderson behind the leg before rolling into the net for a 4-2 lead. The lead extension dispirited the Senators as they appeared lifeless against an aggressive Montreal forecheck that yielded a scoring chance to Lehkonen and two for Kotkaniemi, all stopped by Anderson.
The Habs fell back into more of a defensive posture after that shift, but it mattered little since the already young Senators were playing this period without Bobby Ryan and Duchene who had both exited the game due to injuries. The result was that some inexperienced Sens were getting chances in important offensive scenarios, and the Montreal’s defence was able to stop them at every turn. Their defensive positioning to begin the third period engulfed any and all Senators offensive drives as the lack of experience on the Ottawa side of the board was evident.
With five minutes to play, Ben Harpur was penalized for delay of game as he shot the puck over the glass. The Habs multiplied the scoring chances on this power play as they had very little opposition. Drouin smacked the post with a point shot and had a second shot stopped. Ultimately, the man advantage was unsuccessful despite the better showing.
At even strength, the Habs kept coming and the result was plenty of action in the Ottawa zone, very few scoring chances against in the third, Price making the saves when the Sens did get chances, and finally, Byron scoring into the empty net with 2:32 to play.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Carey Price
A 5-2 win and I’m naming the goaltender the top player? YES! Montreal was soundly outplayed in the first period and they remained in the game long enough to wake up thanks to Carey’s brilliance in the opening period. It’s really simple – because the team played great for the final 40 minutes, it allowed Price to breathe and only make the odd important save. But that opportunity never presents itself without Price’s brilliance to start the game.
Stats: 19 saves, 21 shots, .905 SV %, 2.00 G.A.A., 59:57 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Andrew Shaw
For the last month, Shaw is simply on fire. He continues to be the right player, in the right spot, at the right time and is making good on the chances that he’s getting. Just another one of those for Shaw who is easily playing his best hockey in Montreal since being acquired.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 3 shots, 17:42 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Kenny Agostino
The numbers would suggest Paul Byron get this star, but Byron was rather invisible aside from the two goals. My choice is Agostino but could have been Chaput too. Agostino had better numbers on this night. I keep reading on social media how these players are of the AHL variety and don’t deserve a spot over the Nikita Scherbak’s and Charles Hudon’s of the hockey skillful world. Firstly, the fact that neither Scherbak or Hudon can show that skill with any sort of regularity makes that last statement untrue (though I do agree that the regularity may come with age). More importantly, Chaput and Agostino, for the last week and a half, have been consistently creating turnovers in the offensive zone, turning those into scoring chances, and most importantly, giving the rest of the more skillful players a rest while causing zero stress to the coaching staff regarding giving up scoring chances to the opposition. It has been an excellent duo that is giving the team some great possession numbers.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 1 shot, 4 hits, 13:55 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Max Domi
One of the two heroes from Tuesday night was kept off the scoresheet on Thursday. He was still an important part of the win as he spent most of the night taunting the young Senators. His tactics (or antics, depending on perspective) were successful as the Senators looked concentrated on running after the big hit and the cheap shots instead of the puck by the time the second period started. Domi did a rather wonderful job of playing the line between pest and dirty cheap shot player, though perhaps an Ottawa fan would disagree. In the end, he stayed out of the box, so he was effective.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 0 shots, 4 hits, 17:10 T.O.I.