The Canadiens started their three-game Western road trip by paying a visit to the Coyotes in Arizona. The Habs took advantage of some quick starts to each period and played a near-perfect road game in a 4-1 victory.
The Habs started the game with the same lineup that they featured in the win over Toronto on Saturday night, with Carey Price guarding the goal.
The Habs got off to a roaring start when just 22 seconds into the game, Shea Weber was carrying the puck in the zone. He sent the puck forward to Tomas Tatar, who put it on the net. Brendan Gallagher picked up the loose puck and jammed it in to open the scoring in his 500th career game.
The Habs continued to keep up the pressure and they were rewarded with a power play four minutes in. Other than a slot tip by Nick Suzuki, the Habs didn’t generate much on the power play. However, this did not kill their momentum and they continued to pressure the Coyotes’ defence with shots from all over the zone.
Halfway through the period, Montreal’s penalty kill was put to the test when Tatar was called for slashing. Montreal neutralized the Arizona attack and held them off the scoresheet to preserve their lead.
After the penalty kill, the teams engaged in a defensive chess match. There were lots of shots, with fourteen from each team. However, none of these shots resulted in dangerous chances, and the Habs preserved their one-goal lead into the break.
The Habs started the second period the exact same way they started the first. On a weird play in the offensive zone, goaltender Antti Raanta lost his skate blade. He couldn’t get across the crease and Weber fired a shot into the open cage. This goal was 24 seconds into the period.
Two minutes later, Mike Reilly was called for holding behind the Habs’ net, sending the Coyotes to their second man advantage. There was no harm done as the Canadiens had another solid penalty kill, applying constant pressure on the attackers and not allowing them to set anything up.
With nine minutes left in the second, Jeff Petry drew a tripping penalty. The Habs opened up the penalty killers with some good cross-ice passing plays early on, but couldn’t convert. Late in the advantage, Weber was called for hooking. The falling Coyote crashed into Price, and he appeared to be shaken up. However, Price shook it off and the Habs killed off the ensuing penalty.
Late in the second, Paul Byron had a great chance for his first goal of the season. Ben Chiarot picked up a loose puck at the blue line and went in two on one with Byron. He sent a perfect pass across and Byron tipped it high, but Raanta slid across to make a great save. The Habs then fought off a late attack, and kept their lead into the intermission.
For the fourth period in a row, the Habs scored early, this time 1:17 in. Nick Suzuki sent a beautiful, deceptive pass out front to a wide-open Nick Cousins to extend the Habs lead to three goals. This continued a strong trend where the Habs scored early in the third period against Toronto, and early in all three periods of this game.
Arizona got one back five minutes into the period when Jakub Chychrun one-timed a cross-ice pass into the top corner of the net. Some weak back-checks from the Habs’ forwards made this goal possible. Montreal responded with a couple of strong shifts in the offensive zone to prevent Arizona from gaining any momentum from the goal.
Later on, the Habs restored their three-goal lead. Joel Armia and Jonathan Drouin went in on an odd-man rush. Armia took the shot and there was a scramble in the crease. Drouin was credited with the goal, as the Arizona defenceman was the one to put it across the line.
Led by Carey Price, the Habs had a perfect defensive effort for the rest of the period and polished off a very nice 4-1 victory.
There were several positive takeaways to take from this game. The penalty kill, which has struggled for most of the season, looked very strong and was perfect on three tries. This was also one of the best all-around defensive efforts of the season to date. The early goals in each period also show that the team is making good adjustments between periods, and is ready to go right from the start.
The Habs will need to continue to build on these positives, as the second half of the back-to-back set will see them take on a dangerous Vegas Golden Knights team.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Shea Weber
This was one of Shea Weber’s best games of the season. He, along with Mete, were very strong in the defensive zone and did not give Arizona anything while he was on the ice. With his strong defensive play, he started plays to break out of the zone and move in on the attack all night. He made the play to set up the first goal, and also fired home the game-winning goal in the second period.
Stats: 1G (GWG), 1A, +2, 3 SOG, 20:41 TOI
Second Star – Carey Price
Price was solid all night long in this one. Every time he was called upon he delivered. Price saw the puck very well and made all of his saves look easy. The one goal was not his fault, as it was a breakdown in the defensive zone.
Stats: 32 saves, 1 goal against (.970 save percentage)
Third Star – Phillip Danault
Danault was by far the most used forward for the Habs tonight. He was an integral part of the perfect night for the penalty kill. His line dominated possession like they do most nights, and he was also relied on to take almost every key faceoff in this game.
Stats: 1A, +2, 1 SOG, 17:13 TOI, 65% on faceoffs
Honourable Mention – Cale Fleury
Fleury was very reliable in this game. He was a nightmare for the opposing forwards to deal with, registering ten hits on the night. Fleury has played several very good games in a row and is starting to gain the trust of Claude Julien.
Stats: +1, 10 hits, 13:51 TOI