Fresh off a big win over Buffalo, the Habs looked to make it two victories in as many nights as they took on Carolina on Sunday. However, a late goal from the Hurricanes got it to overtime where Andrei Svechnikov scored the winner to give them the 2-1 victory.
Carey Price once again got the nod for Montreal which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone; it’s his net down the stretch. Claude Julien opted to keep his lineup from Saturday night intact as well. Meanwhile, Curtis McElhinney got the nod for the Hurricanes and was looking to duplicate his strong outing against the Canadiens back in late November when he tied a career high with 48 saves.
The game got off to a quick start as both teams had good chances in the opening minute. Max Domi had Montreal’s opportunity but was stymied on his backhand attempt as McElhinney stretched out to make the stop. Both squads are firm believers in a high volume of shots and this was evident early on as they combined for 16 shots through just five minutes. In other words, the SOG pace at this point was 108-84 for Carolina (and that’s not a typo).
The Hurricanes got the first power play opportunity of the game after Sebastian Aho got around Shea Weber, forcing the captain to trip him up to prevent what would have been a prime scoring chance. Carolina zipped the puck around early but overall, their advantage wasn’t particularly dangerous.
With seven minutes to go, Brock McGinn whiffed on a glorious opportunity to open the scoring. Greg McKegg slipped a pass out from the corner past two Montreal defenders leaving McGinn with an open net and Price down and out. He missed…badly.
A minute after that, the Canadiens had a good chance but this time, the goal post got in the way as Jeff Petry drew iron with his shot. As play continued and a line change had ensued, the Habs got a good bounce. Teuvo Teravainen turned it over to Brendan Gallagher who threw it at the net. It took a couple of bounces (including off Nate Thompson) and landed on Paul Byron’s stick who had an open net and made no mistake to open the scoring.
Carolina continued to push in the dying minutes of the period but they weren’t able to get the equalizer. The shots were quite plentiful for the home side as they put 21 on Price while the Canadiens responded with 13. The 21 shots allowed were the second most in a period by the Habs this season.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Julien and the coaching staff were asking Montreal to play better defensively for the second period. They did just that.
Before going further there, the Habs got several good early chances. Three minutes in, Justin Faulk turned it over to Joel Armia who sent in Jesperi Kotkaniemi on a partial break but his deke was stopped by McElhinney. A minute later, Tomas Tatar had the puck in close following a scrambly play. He tried to wait McElhinney out and did so successfully but was at too difficult of an angle to put it into the open cage.
The Habs then got their first power play of the game after Micheal Ferland high-sticked Armia while jostling before a faceoff. The advantage was as thrilling as most of them have been this season. Shortly after the failed opportunity, Thompson got a quick shot off from in close but will have to continue to wait for his goal in a Montreal uniform.
After shooting from anywhere and everywhere in the first, it took Carolina until the 14:34 mark of the period to get their first shot on Price. Though it wasn’t much of a dangerous one, it did wake them up as they carried the play in the final few minutes of the period.
Their best chance came a couple of minutes after their first shot as Price left a rebound available but Phillip Danault kept it from being an issue. However, in the same sequence, Tatar was called for hooking Dougie Hamilton. Carolina’s power play looked a little more dangerous this time around but couldn’t get anything through, ensuring that the 1-0 score remained intact through 40 minutes. The shots on goal were a lot lower this time around with Montreal holding the 9-4 advantage.
Carolina came out a lot better in the third and controlled the play for the first three minutes before there was a rare lighting delay. Things really got interesting after that break.
30 seconds after play resumed, Tatar got around Faulk for a breakaway but with the puck bouncing, he was unable to get off a shot. 20 seconds after that, Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen had a two-on-one but Shaw’s shot was stopped. 20 seconds later, Aho had a breakaway of his own and tried to go five-hole on Price but he closed the pads in time.
Carolina was then sent to their third power play after Jordan Weal’s attempted stick lift on Calvin de Haan wound up catching the blueliner in his face mask. The Habs had the best chance in the sequence as Lehkonen was stopped on a two-on-one 30 seconds in.
Just past the midway point of the period, Jonathan Drouin had his patented really dumb giveaway, giving the Hurricanes another big chance. De Haan’s point shot was stopped but the rebound kicked out to Aho in the slot but Price made the stop. Less than a minute later, Brett Kulak whiffed on an attempt to keep the puck in the Carolina end, springing Teravainen on a breakaway but his shot hit the side of the post.
The way Price was playing to this point, it was going to take a lucky break to beat him. The Hurricanes got one with a little less than six minutes to go. Ferland got the puck to Trevor van Riemsdyk at the point. His shot looked to be touched by Jordan Martinook’s stick before Jordie Benn decided to try to block it with his foot in the air. The puck hit his foot and went into the net to tie the game.
To their credit, Montreal wasn’t completely rattled as Thompson and Gallagher had good chances in their next shifts following the goal. However, the best opportunity came with two minutes to go when Jordan Staal got around Weber and drove the net hard but Price once again came up big to ensure his team had at least one point in the bank. Shots on goal in the third were 14-6 for the Hurricanes.
The duo of Max Domi and Paul Byron has made some noise in overtime this season and they nearly did so again in this one. On the first shift, Byron used his speed to set up a quick chance for Domi. On their second shift, they had a two-on-one but couldn’t take advantage. A minute later, a zone clearing to Gallagher at centre ice proved to be an issue as he couldn’t corral it. The puck found its way to Andrei Svechnikov who came in on a two-on-one and fired it through Price’s five-hole for the winner.
Both goalies had strong outings in this one. McElhinney made 28 saves for the win while Price kicked aside 38 of 40 in the losing effort. Neither team scored on the power play with Carolina going 0/3 and Montreal 0/1.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Carey Price – While the Svechnikov winner is one he’d like to have back, the Habs wouldn’t have been in the game still had it not been for Price. He was sharp early on when Montreal’s defence was spotty and it took a weird bounce off Benn to beat him in regulation. If Price plays like this in the final two weeks, the Canadiens should be in good shape.
Stats: 38 saves on 40 shots, 1.90 GAA, .950 SV%
2nd Star: Phillip Danault – He wasn’t particularly noticeable too much at the offensive end but he made a few key plays defensively. There are going to be nights where he’s quiet offensively – that’s just who Danault is but if he plays like this defensively, he can still make a considerable impact.
Stats: 0 points, 2 shots, 4 hits, 12/24 faceoffs, 19:35 TOI
3rd Star: Paul Byron – He was fairly quiet overall but scored the lone goal of the game which has to count for something. Byron was particularly noticeable in the OT but unfortunately, that didn’t translate into a quick Montreal goal.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 1 shot, 2 hits, 15:52 TOI
Honourable Mention: Jeff Petry – He has been a bit quiet as of late and with Shea Weber struggling considerably in this one, they needed Petry to step up. It wasn’t the type of game he had when he was really at the top of his game earlier in the season but it was still a solid one from him and a step in the right direction. He’ll be needed in a big way these last two weeks.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 2 shots, 4 blocks, 24:51 TOI