The Montreal Canadiens were seeking their third straight win as they rolled into Rogers Arena on Saturday night. The Habs were taking on a struggling Edmonton Oilers team that had just three wins in their past 10 games and lost to Pittsburgh the night before. Despite their struggles, the Oilers still feature two of the most dangerous players in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The Habs did not have a good start and they were down early but they battled back again and were locked in a back and forth battle. A lucky break late in the third gave Edmonton the lead, and they held on for a 4-3 win.
Carey Price was given another start in goal, and there were no lineup changes to report for the Canadiens.
The aforementioned duo got off to a very quick start and had Edmonton on the board just ninety seconds in. McDavid beat Ben Chiarot at centre ice, then took it in two-on-one. He sent it across to Draisaitl. Price got a piece of the shot but it still had enough to cross the goal line.
A lazy trip in the offensive zone by Jordan Weal set the Oilers up for their first opportunity with the man advantage. Despite the potent Edmonton power play, Montreal did a good job of keeping them away from their own net. Artturi Lehkonen and Nate Thompson each had semi breakaways, but nothing came of those.
With eight minutes to go in the period, the Habs had a terrible scramble in their own zone. There were several chances to clear the puck, but it stayed in, and eventually, Josh Archibald tipped in an Ethan Bear pass to double their lead.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse when Phillip Danault was called for a weak interference penalty off an offensive zone draw. The Edmonton power play looked much more dangerous the second time around, but the Habs hung on. Late in the penalty, Jeff Petry stole the puck and started a partial three on one going the other way. He decided to keep it while going down the left wing and fired a shot by the glove of Mikko Koskinen to cut into the deficit.
The goal gave the Habs some much-needed life, and they strung together a few good offensive zones shifts before the end of the period. With just thirty seconds left, Alex Chiasson had a big chance in the slot but he hit the cross bar and it went out of play. Despite not playing anywhere near their standards through twenty minutes, the Habs were fortunate to be down just one goal.
The Canadiens came out much better early in the second period. Nick Suzuki had a couple of chances to tie it on his first shift. Coming down the right wing, he labelled a shot top corner, but Koskinen got it just in time. On the same shift, he sent a great pass to Riley Barber, who had a 4×6 to look at but couldn’t handle the pass.
Montreal got their first chance on the power play seven minutes into the period when Caleb Jones was called for holding. Late in the man advantage, the Habs struck to tie the game. Suzuki played the puck back to Petry at the point. Petry then fired a shot, and Danault made a very nice tip in front that totally fooled Koskinen.
Montreal dominated the first ten minutes of the period and managed to limit the Oilers to just one shot. Unfortunately, Edmonton started coming back, and with five minutes left, Weal was called for his second offensive zone trip of the game. On the ensuing power play the Habs gave McDavid too much space at centre ice, he gained speed and deked an outstretched Price to regain the Oiler lead.
The Habs’ top line put furious pressure on in the last minute and had several close calls in the zone. However, the puck kept sliding away from the net instead of into it and the second period ended the same way the first did.
Max Domi came out to play in the third and scored a beauty early on. He took a pass from Lehkonen at their own blue line, then carried it through centre. He gained the zone, undressed Darnell Nurse, then fired it past Koskinen to tie it up.
The Habs were called for another tripping penalty as this time Cale Fleury was called. The Habs collapsed a little tight in their zone at times, but they managed to kill it off. Just as the penalty expired, there was a shot off the post and the goal horn went off. A quick replay showed that the puck never came close to crossing the line, and the game remained tied.
Late in the following shift, the Oilers caught a major lucky break. The puck was bouncing harmlessly back to Brett Kulak but a terrible bounce stopped it and it went right to the stick of Riley Sheahan. Edmonton had another two on one, and Sheahan finished it off for the lead again.
With six minutes to go, two players were tangled up behind the net and Nick Cousins was called for interference. Edmonton was more focused on keeping their lead, so it was a rather uneventful two minutes of play.
The Canadiens pulled Price with two minutes to go. They were putting up good pressure, including Shea Weber whistling a slapper that didn’t miss by much. For the last minute, the puck just wouldn’t bounce Montreal’s way, and they came up just short, falling 4-3.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Jeff Petry
Petry had his best game in a while tonight and he was in on all three goals. It was a great individual effort on his tally and he also added another two helpers on the night. Maybe playing a great game against his former team can help restore some of the confidence he had earlier in the season.
Stats: 1G, 2A, +1, 7 SOG, 3 hits, 21:35 TOI
Second Star – Phillip Danault
Like most other nights, the Habs’ top line was their best tonight in terms of possession and offensive zone pressure. Danault was the driving force tonight for most of those shifts. He also had a very nice tip on the second goal.
Stats: 1G, -1, 2 SOG, 19:45 TOI
Third Star – Max Domi
Domi appears to be turning a corner right now. After scoring the OT winner last time out, he scored another highlight-reel goal in this game. He is starting to control the game with his speed and skill more and more. A dominant Domi will be massive down the stretch, especially with some injured players returning.
Stats: 1G, -1, 2 SOG, 15:19 TOI
Honourable Mention – Artturi Lehkonen
Lehkonen did some great work on the penalty kill and helped keep the game close when Edmonton seemed to have all the calls go their way. He also picked up another point. Lehkonen takes a lot of heat for his lack of finishing abilities, but, he does so many different things right. If he can continue to pick up points, Lehkonen will be very important to the Habs.