After a wild win on Thursday, the Habs headed into Saturday night looking to wrap up the week on a high note as they hosted Ottawa. They saved their best for last, using a four-goal surge in the third period to beat the Sens 5-2 for the third time in less than two weeks.
Claude Julien opted to not make any changes to his lineup from their win over Carolina which meant that David Schlemko, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Charles Hudon were all healthy scratches. On the other end, Ottawa made a bit of a surprising move, opting to start Mike McKenna in goal instead of running Craig Anderson on both ends of their back-to-back.
The Canadiens struggled in their own end to start the game and had several bad clearing attempts that kept them hemmed in. Eventually, Matthew Peca decided to skate the puck out instead of clearing it and that proved to be a wise decision. He dropped it to Brett Kulak who fired one on the net and the rebound went to the corner. Kenny Agostino then threw it towards the net. It bounced off a defender right to Peca who roofed it home just 3:39 in.
The lead was short-lived, however as the Sens tied it up 20 seconds later. Matthew Tkachuk took the puck towards the net off a won draw and his stick made contact with Carey Price who was already off balance. Price fell which left Colin White with a yawning cage and he tapped it home. Montreal unsuccessfully challenged for goalie interference on the play.
Just 30 seconds later, the Phillip Danault line had the puck in Ottawa’s end. Tomas Tatar got off a good shot and the rebound bounced to Brendan Gallagher. He scored a nice goal if the game was soccer. Unfortunately for him, kicking the puck into the net is a no-go in hockey and it was rightfully disallowed.
Things settled down for the most part after that with each team getting a couple of good chances the rest of the way. Ottawa’s best came when Noah Juulsen fell in the neutral zone, sending Ottawa in two-on-one. Peca did well to get back and cover Nick Paul which slowed his pass to Bobby Ryan, allowing Price to get across to make the save.
At the other end, Max Domi had a good one-time chance off a feed from Jonathan Drouin that McKenna stopped while shortly after that, Thomas Chabot broke up an odd-man centring pass. The Habs had a late power play and they successfully managed to not allow any scoring chances the other way. That was the highlight of it for Montreal as the two sides went to the room tied at one. Shots on goal were 12-8 for the home side.
The Habs came out well to start the second as Paul Byron picked up a pair of changes near the 2:30 mark. He attacked with speed which got him a partial break but was stopped; the puck eventually worked its way back to him in the slot but he fanned on it.
Four minutes later, Jeff Petry was teed up for a one-timer by Agostino. McKenna made the stop but the rebound went to Gallagher in the slot. He quickly put it on goal but it hit McKenna’s head and stayed out.
As had been the case in their previous two matchups, Ottawa was out of sorts to start the period and didn’t have a shot nine minutes in. Their first one was all they needed though. Jordie Benn and Noah Juulsen fumbled the puck behind their own net. That allowed Mark Stone to steal it away and find Mikkel Boedker uncovered in the slot and he beat Price to give Ottawa the lead.
Four minutes later, Thomas Chabot was sent off for tripping, giving Montreal another crack at the man advantage. The second unit started this one and to their credit, the puck movement was a lot better and they had a couple of decent chances that missed the net. It wound up being an abbreviated power play, however, as Tomas Tatar was called for interference.
As Ottawa took over with the advantage, Brett Kulak went end-to-end with a nice looking rush but couldn’t beat McKenna. The Habs killed off the penalty and then were given another power play when Ottawa was called for too many men. Once again, Montreal couldn’t score although they had a couple of chances once again. (Baby steps…) All in all, the Canadiens dominated the period, outshooting the Sens 16-3 but the road side led in the stat that counted the most, the scoreboard.
The Habs came out for the third period even more determined and they were rewarded for their efforts. Just past the two-minute mark, Artturi Lehkonen took the feed from Petry and sent it to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He rang a shot off the post but it bounced off McKenna’s back and in to tie the game.
That was a good break for Montreal. They got a bad one moments later.
After Benn (who had a rough night) was called for hooking a minute after the goal, Lehkonen and Danault were off to the races shortly after the faceoff. They had a two-on-one and Chabot hooked Lehkonen, creating a delayed penalty. Lehkonen still got the pass off to Danault who tapped it home to give the Canadiens the lead. Or so they thought. It turns out that Lehkonen was called for embellishment on the play (not a good call), wiping the goal off the board and leaving the Sens on the power play. Montreal killed off the rest of the advantage although Ottawa had a couple of chances late.
A little over two minutes later, the Canadiens went back to the power play and this one wasn’t particularly strong. Shea Weber wound up staying for the full two minutes and by the end, he was shooting every time he touched the puck. Just as the power play ended, Danault’s shot hit Andrew Shaw and the puck bounced to Weber. At the 2:09 mark of his shift, he beat McKenna to give the Habs the lead for real.
Montreal kept their foot on the pedal. A little over three minutes later, they pulled off a perfect four-way passing play. Mike Reilly sent it to Lehkonen who fed it to Kotkaniemi. The quick passing left Byron wide open in the crease and he had a tap in to make it 4-2. They ended the night with another four-way passing play as Peca got it to Drouin. He sent it to Domi who fed it back to Drouin for another tap in, this time into the empty net.
Price had a relatively quiet night, turning aside 16 of 18 shots but aside from Ottawa’s first goal, he was strong. McKenna played quite well at the other end, turning aside 42 of 46 shots (not including the Drouin empty netter). Both sides were goalless with the man advantage with Montreal going 0/4 and Ottawa 0/2.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Shea Weber – There are some nights where his physicality rules the day. Others, his defensive play stands out. This time, his offence gets him the nod. He was aggressive with his shot as the game went on and was rewarded for his efforts with the eventual game-winner.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 6 shots (11 attempts), 2 hits, 24:41 TOI
2nd Star: Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Through two periods, he was largely invisible. That wasn’t the case in the third as he was the catalyst for the comeback, scoring the tying goal while making a nice pass on Byron’s insurance tally.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2 rating, 4 shots (6 attempts), 4/8 faceoffs, 12:58 TOI
3rd Star: Matthew Peca – Maybe going to the wing was all he needed to get going? He has really only played three games there and he has hit the scoresheet in all of them. His goal was a really nice shot and his speed was causing Ottawa fits throughout the night. Ryan Dzingel made him look silly in the third on a play but that was the only blemish on his night.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 4 shots, 11:32 TOI
Honourable Mention: Artturi Lehkonen – Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault also got considered for this spot but Lehkonen’s third period was quite strong alongside Kotkaniemi. He made a nice play on Danault’s disallowed goal that would have given him a three-point night. The offence is starting to come around for him and getting more production from that line would be huge moving forward.
Stats: 2 assists, +2 rating, 2 PIMS, 4 hits, 11:59 TOI