The Canadiens were looking to get back on track after a disappointing weekend when they took on the Carolina Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve. The Habs didn’t play a great first period but kept a 1-1 tie through twenty. Montreal played better in the middle frame but found themselves down 2-1. Ryan Poehling tied the game for the Habs in the third, but a brutal goalie interference call took the goal away. In the end, the Habs ended their disappointing road trip with a 3-4 record after a 3-1 loss on New Year’s Eve.
There was a slightly different look to the Habs’ lineup in this one. Charlie Lindgren got his first start of the season in goal. Lukas Vejdemo also suited up for his first NHL game, lining up beside Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal. Ryan Poehling was also promoted up to the third line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Cousins.
Montreal got off to a good start and had Carolina on the ropes early. However, an early tripping penalty in the offensive zone by Artturi Lehkonen on Brett Pesce turned the tides. On the power play, a pad save from Lindgren sent the puck up in the air. Sebastian Aho smacked it out of the air and into the net. The play was reviewed but Aho’s stick stayed low enough for the goal to stand.
The lead was short-lived for the Hurricanes, and only lasted about two minutes. Max Domi stripped Teuvo Teravainen and found himself alone in the slot. He made no mistake and fired a wrist shot top shelf to tie the game up. With a goal in a franchise-record six straight road games, Domi etched his name into Montreal Canadiens history.
The Habs continued to press after the goal, and goaltender Petr Mrazek appeared to be shaky. A rather weak Kotkaniemi wrist shot slid passed him, but just wide. Shortly after that, Phillip Danault was in alone on a breakaway, and was taken down, but there was no call.
With five minutes to go in the second, Lindgren misplayed the puck behind the net, and there was a scramble in front. Luckily, Warren Foegele put the puck wide. There were several other bad bounces in Montreal’s zone, but Lindgren stayed on top of them and did not let anything past him.
With two minutes left, Carolina was called for too many men but it was a harmless looking power play by the Habs, with no pressure put on them.
The teams exchanged chances in the second period. The play went back and forth, with close calls both ways. The tie wasn’t broken until eight minutes into the period. Unfortunately, it was Carolina taking the lead, as Erik Haula finished off a passing play into an open cage.
Montreal’s best chance came halfway through the period. It was another turnover forced by Max Domi. He came into the slot and fired a shot off the post. The Canadiens had another chance on the power play, but it was much like the first. The Habs just couldn’t seem to gain the zone with any regularity, and another chance was wasted.
With a number of key forwards already out, another ugly looking disastrous play sent Brendan Gallagher off the ice. Gallagher was falling from a hard bodycheck, and on his way down the knee of Ben Chiarot hit him in the head and his head also hit the ice. He was down for a minute but did skate off under his own power.
The Habs had a couple other chances in the period but could not find the equalizer left. Danault had one more chance but he was stopped by Mrazek. The Habs went into the third period the same way as the last two games, needing to make a comeback in the third.
Early in the third period, Poehling was sent to the box for high-sticking. Aho appeared to have his second goal of the night when the puck bounced to him in front. However, Charlie Lindgren reached back with his glove and took the puck off the goal line to keep the Habs close; it was an unbelievable save by the Montreal backup. As the penalty expired, Poehling made a nice rush of his own, but lost the puck on his drive to the net.
The official announcement from the Habs came in the third period, Gallagher was done for the night. This absence unleashed mass confusion on the Habs forwards, and all kinds of line combinations were used for the rest of the game.
With eight minutes to go the Habs appeared to tie the game. A Weber point shot went just wide of the net. Weal picked it up behind the net and sent it out front. Poehling was there to put it home to tie the game. Carolina challenged the goal for goaltender interference. Unbelievably, the goal was called back, despite Danault being pushed in by Pesce, and trying to lean away to avoid the contact.
Ryan Dzingel was called for a high-sticking penalty with three minutes left in the third. But just like the first two power plays, there was nothing doing for the Habs again. Dzingel added an empty netter in the last minute.
After a promising start to the trip, three straight disappointing losses made it look very mediocre. The Habs will be back home on Thursday for a critical matchup with Tampa Bay.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Max Domi
Ever since his overtime winner in Calgary, Domi has been on another level. He has scored in every game since. Something had clearly happened with his shot, as he is clearly beating goaltenders clean regularly. His line along with Suzuki and Lehkonen was the Habs best line by far.
Stats: 1G, -1, 1 SOG, 1 hit, 17:58 TOI
Second Star – Ryan Poehling
Poehling was one of the Habs better forwards tonight. He appeared to get more comfortable as the game went on. With Gallagher out in the third, he played some heavy minutes. He also came in clutch with what looked to be the tying goal, but it was taken away from him.
Stats: 3 SOG, 4 hits, 15:52 TOI
Third Star – Nick Suzuki
He is continuing to gain more and more chemistry with Max Domi and the two are becoming a lethal combination. Suzuki is showing great growth in his game and will continue to be a very important player for the Habs, especially with two right wingers injured.
Stats: -1, 20:26 TOI
Honourable Mention – Charlie Lindgren
Lindgren played pretty well for his first start of the season. He wasn’t at fault for either of the goals. He also did a good job of tracking the puck as there were a number of awkward bounces in front of his net. He also put in his candidate for save of the year in the third period.
Stats: 33 saves, .943 save percentage