The Habs were back in action on Thursday night as they continued their western swing with a visit in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. As is usually the case on back-to-back games, Keith Kinkaid was called upon to guard the net as he faced Marc-Andre Fleury. The blue line remained unchanged from Wednesday night’s contest, but a Jesperi Kotkaniemi groin injury allowed Jordan Weal to get back into the lineup. He replaced Nick Suzuki who was moved to the centre position on the third line between Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen.
The Habs had some strong moments during this game, but the overall was simply that they did not have enough energy to keep up with the Golden Knights who pushed the pace all night knowing that the Habs had played yesterday. However, the Habs showed crazy resilience and resolve, as they gutted out a 2-goal comeback in the third to keep rolling with a 5-4 overtime victory.
The Habs came out firing on all cylinders as Fleury was forced to make a great save on Nick Cousins in the opening minutes. Only 2:35 into the contest, Jordan Weal got away with a dangerous-looking play and the ensuing play saw Tomas Tatar pass the puck to Shea Weber who fired the puck. Phillip Danault was all over the rebound to gain an early lead. The Knights quickly caught up to the Habs speed and the rest of the first half of the period saw speed creating some rushes at both ends of the ice.
The Knights continued to outwork the Canadiens in the second half of the period. They were finally rewarded with 5:25 to play when a Jonathan Marchesseault clearing bounced off Victor Mete directly to William Karlsson who skated in alone and beat Kinkaid.
Montreal’s legs were failing and the Knights took advantage. With only 24 seconds to play in the period, the Knights took their first lead of the game when Alex Tuch, playing his first game of the season, beat Weber and Mete with speed and then shot five-hole as Kinkaid looked weak on the goal.
The Habs remained tentative to open the second period until Ben Chiarot created an offensive chance by pinching at the blue line while Jonathan Drouin missed on the rebound. This chance turned the tide as the Habs gained enough momentum to at least get the puck to the offensive zone with some regularity. The first penalty of the game occurred at 5:24 when the Knights were called for too many men on the ice. The power play threatened but did not score.
The second half of the middle frame saw Drouin tie the score. It started with a beautiful cross-ice pass in the offensive zone by Mike Reilly. Drouin had so much time that he completed multiple dekes, but after getting by Fleury, he lost the puck only to see McNabb slap it in his own net.
The Habs once again appeared to run out of energy as the period neared its end. This time they escaped unscathed but were lucky to do so as it required a nice sliding stop by Kinkaid before Karlsson hit the post. The Habs would get a second unsuccessful man advantage at the end of the period as Engelland was called for tripping.
The Habs had a few seconds left on their power play but really came out flat in the third period. After a few excellent saves, another squeaker got by Kinkaid as Cody Glass slid a puck on the ice that once again beat him five-hole.
With 15:39 to play, the Habs were down a goal. A minute later, Tatar was sent to the penalty box for hooking as it was the first Vegas power play of the night. They killed it off but shortly thereafter, Kinkaid came out but sent the puck to the Knights. Pacioretty accepted the gift and found Stone in front of the net for an easy tip-in and a 4-2 lead.
With eight minutes to play, the Habs got another power play where the Habs really buzzed and finally made it a game when Armia hit the post and Stone’s ensuing clearing attempt bounced in the net off Tatar. The penalty was technically expired, but for all intents and purposes, this was a power play goal.
The Habs pulled Kinkaid with approximately 2:13 to play and 15 seconds later, Domi fired the puck to the front of the net where it bounced off Gallagher and McNabb to find the net and tie the game!
The overtime lasted 27 seconds as Domi fired the puck down the ice. Petry won the race to the puck and returned the pass to Domi who was forgotten by the Knights and he beat Fleury for the winner.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Max Domi
Last year’s top scorer displayed his best quality on this night as he took a page out of the Brendan Gallagher book and just never quit. Already on the board with a +1 on the Drouin goal, he kept his points for some late-game heroics as he put the team on his shoulders and made the play to tie the game before scoring the winner.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +3, 1 shot, 1 hit, 19:17 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jonathan Drouin
Drouin took a puck to the face early and responded by scoring the Habs’ second goal of the night. The goal was a full display of his skill as he outwaited Fleury before returning to the front of the net and having the puck go in off the defender. He also created some scoring chances in the third as the team attempted to come back, 3-4 chances that were notably missed by Joel Armia (who hasn’t been missing those often this season).
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 4 shots, 1 hit, 16:01 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Ben Chiarot
Ever since his demotion to the third pairing, Chiarot has been playing some solid hockey. He’s since returned to the second pairing and hasn’t missed a beat. Likely his best two games of the season have been these last two games as he’s been smart with the puck, making better decisions without it, and playing as physically as expected. Here’s hoping he keeps this up and we can quickly forget the Alzner comparisons.
Stats: 0 points, -1, 3 shots, 2 hits, 18:40 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Joel Armia
Armia missed a long list of scoring chances on this night, but he remains so constant in being around the net and getting himself in a position to get those chances. It still results in some numbers on the scoreboard for the surprising forward so far this season.
Stats: 1 assist, +2, 3 hits, 17:42 T.O.I.