The Habs had little time to digest Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Devils as they were back in action on Tuesday night, taking on a divisional foe in the Detroit Red Wings. The Habs won both games against Detroit so far this season by scores of 7-3 and 3-2, led mostly by Tomas Tatar’s five points on ten goals as he’s enjoyed playing his former team.
Jimmy Howard started the game for the Wings, and he faced Carey Price playing for a second consecutive night for those wondering of the importance of this game for the Habs. Up front, the lines returned to an old configuration as Jonathan Drouin finding his former line of Max Domi and Andrew Shaw while Tomas Tatar returned to play with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. The third line remained intact, while the fourth line saw Artturi Lehkonen play with Nate Thompson and Dale Weise. The blue line also saw some changes as Jordie Benn was rewarded for his play of late with a promotion to Shea Weber’s left while Victor Mete found himself next to Jeff Petry and Brett Kulak was playing with Christian Folin. This meant that Mike Reilly found the press box as Habs fans got their first look at Folin. The changes sparked the Habs as they exploded for five second period goals to secure an important two points in the standings with an 8-1 victory.
The opening five minutes of the game resembled the start of Monday’s contest as the execution from both teams was sorely lacking. This created neutral zone play with horrific passes by both teams all over the ice.
Detroit finally got organized in the sixth minute as they hemmed the Canadiens in their zone for a good minute. Ironically, it was the Habs who scored on the shift as Benn finally got to a loose puck and flipped the puck out of the zone. Tatar beat Filip Hronek to the loose puck and deked Howard for a 1-0 Montreal lead.
The first half of the period saw the Wings carry the play, but they got nothing out of it, not even shots. The Habs woke up as the second half begun and started playing in the offensive zone. The top three lines spent the rest of the period in the offensive end despite creating very little in terms of quality scoring opportunities. The most dangerous line was likely the Jesperi Kotkaniemi line, playing with Paul Byron and Joel Armia.
With only two minutes to play in the period, Byron took an offensive penalty for tripping. Anthony Mantha released a one-timer for the only Detroit chance on the sequence which also forced Price to make his best save of the period. Despite the excellent penalty, it wasn’t all positive as Lehkonen was called for high sticking with 18 seconds to play after a nice acting job from Andreas Athanasiou. Regardless, the Habs retreated with a 1-0 lead in goals, 10-5 in shots on goal.
The second period started with the end of the Lehkonen penalty which forced Price to make two excellent saves to start the period on the right foot for the Habs.
After a nice glove save by Price against Filip Zadina, the Habs extended the lead when Domi’s saucer pass at the offensive zone entrance skipped over Kulak’s stick but landed in Shaw’s sweet spot where he one-timed it past Howard.
Mantha did his best to keep his team in it as he got three good shots that Price had to turn aside after the Shaw goal. However, the Habs once again got on the board when Tatar and Danault crashed the net which allowed Gallagher enough time to cut toward the centre and snipe home a quick wrist-shot to beat Howard with 8:41 to play.
A strong defensive play by Benn allowed the rest of the team to break-out with numbers. The 4-on-2 gave Drouin options as he opted for the drop pass to Domi who dragged the puck before sending another wrist-shot past Howard with 6:12 to play.
The onslaught continued as Kotkaniemi collected an offensive rebound, circled to the top of the zone before finding a wide-open Armia at the side of the net who had an empty net to make it 5-0 with under four minutes to play.
Mike Green and Mantha finally coordinated their efforts to gain the Montreal zone. Green’s point shot was then tipped by Thompson which created a rebound that Mantha dropped into the empty net for Detroit to get on the board with 1:44 to play.
The Habs responded to the goal before the intermission as Green was as generous to Domi as he was to Mantha. He blindly passed it behind his net where no one was standing. Domi stretched, found the puck, and sent it to the front of the net where Shaw simply re-directed it home for a 6-1 lead heading to the intermission despite the Wings outshooting the Habs 14-12 in the period. With 14 seconds to play, Shaw was called for slashing and so the Habs would once again start the next period shorthanded.
The large Montreal lead meant that Howard started the third on the bench in favour of Jonathan Bernier. The Wings simply could not get organized and so the Habs easily killed off the rest of Shaw’s penalty.
With 17:19 to play, a strong defensive play was followed by a good break-out pass by Folin. The result was Drouin skating up the ice and finding a streaking Domi. Domi skated past the defender and deked out Bernier for a 7-1 lead.
With both teams going through the motions, the play remained mostly in the Detroit zone. With five minutes to play, frustration boiled over for Dylan Larkin as Kulak took the body. The two fought and were given misconducts to end their nights. Kulak ended the sequence with the extra penalty that likely had more to do with the score than the altercation.
The Habs killed off the penalty and then the Domi line tic-tac-toed in the offensive zone which finished on Shaw’s stick for his first ever hat-trick in the NHL. Armia was then called for boarding. This meant little as Detroit’s power play was completely ineffective. Final score 8-1, shot totals Detroit 29, Montreal 34.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Max Domi
A career high five-point performance makes Domi the easy choice as the game’s top player. Domi forechecked with Shaw, made plays with Drouin, and even covered his own defensive mistakes. His game found another level when the team needed him most as the Habs absolutely could not let another two points slip by. Domi was the man for the job.
Stats: 2 goals, 3 assists, +5, 3 shots, 13:49 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Andrew Shaw
Imagine scoring our first career hat-trick and not being the game’s first star. It was that sort of night for the Habs as Shaw continues to have his best season since being dealt to Montreal. A player that most fans had written off prior to the season and essentially produces at the pace of a 60 points season is phenomenal and that’s exactly what Shaw has done. Hopefully, we get more than one season of this Shaw, or Bergevin has the vision that we don’t and trades him this summer while his value is high. Honestly, I prefer the former option, but time will tell.
Stats: 3 goals, +5, 3 shots, 2 hits, 14:16 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Jonathan Drouin
The reunion with Domi and Shaw meant that Drouin could do what he does best. He allowed his linemates to work in puck pursuit and he controlled the puck and found them for some great scoring chances. Many won’t like it, but this is when Drouin is at his best and this game was no exception.
Stats: 4 assists, +5, 1 shot, 13:48 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Carey Price
Strange to name the goaltender as an honourable mention in an 8-1 game, but Price made many important saves in the first half, otherwise this could have been a much different outcome as the Habs struggled to execute their assignments early on.
Stats: 28 saves, 29 shots, .966 save %, 1.00 G.A.A., 60:00 T.O.I.