The Habs attempted to put a third consecutive win on the board as they returned home to face the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night. For the back end of the doubleheader, Cayden Primeau got the second start of his NHL career while he certainly hoped this game would represent his first win. He faced Anders Nilsson as the Senators since Craig Anderson was injured.
The changes didn’t end in the crease for coach Julien. The injury bug claimed Matthew Peca in Pittsburgh last night, so the Habs called up Ryan Poehling who dressed next and played with Nate Thompson and Riley Barber (I would personally have enjoyed seeing him next to Nick Suzuki). The rest of the roster remained unchanged.
The Canadiens continued a frustrating trend of playing to its opposition as they allowed the Sens to stick around long enough for the game to be tied. The Habs were lucky to get away with the second point as they managed a 3-2 overtime victory.
Montreal came out very flat, even more so than Tuesday night. Ottawa had a 6-1 shot advantage after only five minutes of play mostly due to some soft plays on the puck by the Habs in zone exit attempts. To the credit of the Canadiens, they defended quite well and limited the dangerous scoring chances. Primeau made a few excellent saves when he needed to. The most positively noticeable player early in the game was Poehling as he was skating hard and creating some turnovers.
As the second half of the period got underway, another intense shift by Poehling resulted in a turnover and a Cody Goloubef tripping penalty. For the second night in a row, they capitalized on their first power play opportunity as Nick Cousins tipped home a Max Domi shot-pass.
The goal energized the Habs as the Domi line forechecked and created two more scoring chances on their next shift. In the final minute of the period, Poehling had yet another strong shift as he created two turnovers and forced two excellent Nilsson stops to limit the damage for the Sens.
Play was tentative for both teams to start the second period until the Phillip Danault line once again caused havoc and created some scoring chances for themselves. The Habs were unable to sustain the momentum as Domi took an interference penalty on the very next shift. The Habs were able to kill the penalty, though they were lucky that Armia wasn’t called for a cross-check in the early moments of the penalty kill.
With eight minutes to play, Brady Tkachuk shoved Shea Weber into young Primeau and Weber went after the young Senator agitator as both wrestled their way to two minutes each. As this was happening, Cousins and Anthony Duclair were also wrestling and Cousins said something that Duclair clearly didn’t like as Duclair sucker-punched Cousins before rapidly attempting to return to his bench. Duclair did not get away with his shot and the result was a second Montreal man advantage on the night. This time, a telegraphed pass by Domi sent the Sens to a 2-on-1 that resulted in an Armia penalty to negate the power play.
The officials were trying to call the game tightly as the period was escalating in emotions. This was evident when Colin White took a slashing penalty only a few seconds later. Jeff Petry would hit the post on the ensuing 4-on-3, but that was the only chance the Habs could create. Armia would take a second penalty a few minutes later after Primeau’s best save of the night after an Otto Leskinen blocked shot in the offensive zone. The Habs killed the penalty just in time to see Ottawa take another penalty, this time for too many men on the ice. The best chance of the sequence went to Jean-Gabriel Pageau shorthanded but Primeau was up to the task as the period ended with a 1-0 score and a 25-18 shot advantage for the Senators.
The Habs started the third with a vintage shift from the Danault line. Brendan Gallagher won his battle in the offensive zone and brought the puck out to Danault who found Tomas Tatar. Tatar put it on net with Gallagher screening Nilsson and the puck bounced off Mark Borowiecki and in for an early 2-0 lead.
With the Habs in full control of the first four minutes of the period, Gallagher took a tripping penalty in the neutral zone. The abysmal Sens power play made Gallagher pay though as Tkachuk jumped on a rebound to beat Primeau. This goal gave the Sens some energy and the Habs made matters worse as Tatar was caught for a high stick only a few minutes later.
The Habs would kill the penalty but a lack of focus in the defensive zone kept giving Ottawa scoring chances. Finally, with seven minutes to play, Leskinen coughed up the puck to Tkachuk. Primeau made the initial save but Logan Brown put home the rebound to tie the game.
With 2:33 to play, Gallagher was called after a solid Vladislav Namestnikov dive. Armia was blatantly held, which was ignored by the officials, but it mattered little as he managed a pass to Nate Thompson who hit the post. This was the best chance of the sequence as the Habs managed to get the game to overtime.
After a quiet first shift to overtime, Max Domi decided to end the game. He broke in with Armia but opted for a deke that failed and sent the Sens off to the races. Domi showed some character in a huge backcheck to get the puck back as he went off on another rush. This time he opted for a pass across to Ben Chiarot who fired one top shelf to end the game and secure the second point.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Cayden Primeau
I must admit that when I said the Habs should call up Primeau during the losing streak, it was more to shake up the locker room. Since said recall, Primeau has shown to be more reliable than Antti Niemi and Keith Kinkaid combined. While there are still some signs of lack of experience (and they are to be expected), Stephane Waite is about to earn his paycheck in a big way because he Primeau has to learn the pro game while he plays NHL games. And he has to get a regular start because Price can’t be playing 70 games. Good test, especially in the third and OT for the youngster.
Stats: 35 saves, 37 shots, .946 save %, 2.00 G.A.A., 61:11 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Shea Weber
Another huge night for the captain as he logged a ton of minutes, got some points, and who didn’t like watching him get mad at Tkachuk? Too bad the officials were in the way. It was Chiarot with the game-winner who also played like a beast, but Weber’s having to deal with the Ottawa pest (and he’s a damn good hockey player too) puts Weber on my board.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, 26:28 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Nick Cousins
Author of the game’s first goal, Cousins had a good night causing some turnovers on strong forechecks and creating some chances for himself and Suzuki. This is worth highlighting since Jordan Weal appears to be struggling on this line. In fact, Weal is also invisible on the power play. I’d be tempted to leave Cousins on the power play and find someone with more skill to play in Weal’s spot for the time being.
Stats: 1 goal, -1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 11:49 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Ryan Poehling
Easily the best Montreal player in the first period, he saw little ice time in the second due to the long list of penalties called. He was once again intense in the third as he missed a glorious chance just before the Sens tied the game. His play was so good that the coaching staff had him on the ice in the last five minutes of a tied game in a divisional contest. The only thing he couldn’t do on this night was put some numbers on the scoreboard.
Stats: 1 shot, 1 hit, 9:48 T.O.I.