The Habs were right back at it on Thursday night as they opened the Bell Centre on the back end of a double-header after an overtime loss in Buffalo on Wednesday. For the occasion, the Detroit Red Wings were in town, offering fans a Carey Price versus Jonathan Bernier goaltending matchup. While the forwards saw no changes to the personnel, a surprise move by Claude Julien saw the same six defenders dress as the previous night in Buffalo. Many, including myself, really expected to see Brett Kulak and Cale Fleury back in action but Julien opted otherwise. The Habs could have used fresh legs as they appeared tired all night long. They won very few puck battles and very little races as they were simply outplayed by a Red Wings team that looked much hungrier for a victory on this night. The final score was 4-2 for the Red Wings, and that score likely doesn’t do justice to Detroit’s game on this night.
After a first half of the period filled with inaccurate passes and broken plays by both teams, Detroit took over in the second half of the period forcing Price to make some decent saves. With 6:27 to play, Christian Folin looked around his zone like a chicken with his head cut off when Danny DeKeyser’s point shot pinballed off Jacob de la Rose to reach Darren Helm who scored the game’s first goal. Detroit used this momentum to dominate the rest of the period until the final moments.
With 53 seconds to play in the period, Phillip Danault won an offensive zone faceoff; Jonathan Drouin attracted the defenders before giving the puck to Joel Armia who ripped a shot past Bernier to even the contest.
The tie would be short-lived as the Red Wings scored just 30 seconds later. An inoffensive dump-in saw the puck take a strange bounce. Jeff Petry was caught sleeping by Dylan Larkin who won the race, snuck the puck to the low slot where Tyler Bertuzzi took advantage of Ben Chiarot covering air to restore the Wings lead.
Detroit came out firing again before Anthony Mantha took the game’s first penalty for high-sticking three minutes in. The Habs scored on the power play as a Petry point shot went over the net but saw the puck come back over the net where Max Domi put it in while being tackled to the ground to tie the game again. The Habs went right back to the man advantage as Patrik Nemeth took an obvious interference penalty. This time, they threatened but could not score.
With five minutes to play, the Habs took their first penalty of the game as Nick Suzuki took a slashing call in the defensive zone. The Red Wings looked like the Habs first power play unit as they tried the same play three times. Unfortunately, the penalty kill did not catch on and on the third try as Anthony Mantha’s one-timer reached the back of the net to restore the Detroit lead heading to the third period.
The Habs came out with a bit more jump in the third but had any semblance of momentum broken when Folin took two minutes for elbowing. Julien rightfully did not like the call after a similar play went unpunished against the Wings in the first period. The Habs got the best chances of the sequence as most of it was spent in the Wings zone. After the power play, the Wings really focused on shutting down the play.
The Habs were therefore allowed to attack for the better part of the second half of this final period. Despite the many minutes of offensive zone time, they appeared out of energy to battle through the stingy defensive coverage. They never really accessed the middle of the ice and they never really tested Bernier with quality scoring chances in all that zone time. With Price on the bench in favour of the extra attacker, Luke Glendening cleared the zone from his knees into the empty net to drive the final nail in the coffin, resulting in the first game this season that ends without overtime that falls against the Canadiens.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Carey Price
The Habs were able to make things interesting at the end, but this never happens if Price doesn’t make a series of difficult saves look easy to keep his team in the game.
Stats: 30 saves, 33 shots, .909 save %, 3.09 GAA, 58:20 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jonathan Drouin
Still easily the best Montreal forward on the ice, tonight marked the fourth game in a row this season where Drouin earned a point on the scoresheet.
Stats: 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 5 shots, 1 hit, 17:52 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Joel Armia
Like the rest of this line, Armia continued his strong start to the season as he notched his third goal of the campaign. It’s doubtful that Armia scores 50, but we’ll enjoy the strong play and production pace while it’s there.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 4 hits, 14:38 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Max Domi
Nothing was happening with Suzuki and Lehkonen. Julien made the switch to play Domi with Tatar and Byron and the line had a much better third period. Time will tell if this line sticks together, but it was a rare positive sign for the Habs on this night.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 15:26 T.O.I.