The Habs attempted to conjure some nostalgic ghosts to finally snap the eight-game losing streak as they invited past captains to the Bell Centre for a pre-game ceremony to celebrate the 110th birthday for the team. The Islanders were the visitors which meant another tough test as the stingy Long Island team that sits in the third echelon of the Eastern Conference wasn’t about to roll over for the Habs.
Carey Price was facing Thomas Greiss in the goaltending matchup as freshly recalled Cayden Primeau sat on the bench awaiting his first NHL game. The blue line remained the same as Sunday while Matthew Peca replaced Charles Hudon on the team’s fourth line.
The Habs finally got some bounces and were able to capitalize on some juicy rebounds that Greiss was giving up all night. They dominated most of the game but still had to sweat until the final minutes on way to their first win in nine tries as they skated away with a 4-2 victory.
The first period required little ink as the Habs defended as a five-man unit which meant plenty of one-and-done opportunities for New York and a distinct advantage in offensive zone time for the Habs. The Islanders were also guilty of many turnovers at the offensive blueline. This is a small detail that was sure to be addressed by the coaching staff at the intermission. Some of those occasions were created by some strong gap control by Montreal blueliners, Gustav Olofsson was particularly solid in this department in the first.
Speaking of Olofsson, he was guilty of the period’s only infraction. After getting away with what was really a blatant high stick on Cal Clutterbuck who wound up leaving the game, he was then called for holding. Luckily for Olofsson, the penalty kill was fully present as they interrupted a number of attempted passes through the slot.
With only seconds remaining in the period, the Phillip Danault line reversed recent results as they attacked the Islanders net and got a bounce as a Danault shot hit a New York defender and came right back to him with Gallagher disrupting the front of the net. With under a second on the clock, Danault fired home his seventh of the season as the Habs ended the period with a 1-0 lead.
The second period began much like the first started. The Habs won just about every single puck battle available and the first ten minutes was spent almost entirely in the Islanders zone as Montreal’s shot advantage was 8-1. The negative news is that Greiss made some saves and the score remained 1-0 so the Habs were not capitalizing on their chances.
With 6:30 to play, the Habs finally solved Greiss to add to their lead. Brendan Gallagher made a nifty drop pass as he entered the offensive zone and headed straight to the front of the net. Danault waited for a trailing Shea Weber who blasted a one-timer with Gallagher collecting the rebound to score.
This second goal against woke up the Islanders who finally found some legs and fought back a bit. They got some help as Jeff Petry was sent to the sin bin with 3:11 to play on what was an absolute garbage holding call. During the power play, Price and Brock Nelson were exchanging shots and the official had seen enough and gave Price a penalty for slashing. Luckily for the Habs, the first penalty was over by the time play was stopped, so all that was left was a minute of a penalty to kill before the period ended with the rest carrying over.
Starting the final period on the penalty kill, Montreal killed it off before pushing the play right back to the Islanders zone where Nick Suzuki barely missed an open net while falling down.
A little over two minutes in the period, Suzuki won an offensive zone faceoff resulted with the puck on Petry’s stick on the blue line. Petry walked the line long enough to be past the centre of the ice when he finally shot. His released surprised everyone including Greiss to extend the lead to three.
The Islanders fired back a minute later as Jordan Eberle crashed the net that caused a pile-up in front of Price. The puck came out of the pile and Scott Mayfield put it on net as it found its way through the crowd to surprise Price and break the goose egg for the Islanders.
With seven minutes to play, Joel Armia and Adam Pelech got matching minors as Pelech was caught with Armia’s stick in his hands. The four-on-four was inconclusive and with five minutes to play, the end of the game was played mostly in the Montreal zone.
With 2:30 to play and an empty net, a Nick Leddy point shot was redirected by Mathew Barzal to make the final 150 seconds interesting. Some intense defending and some timely Price saves were important and allowed for Weber to fire a puck the length of the ice into the empty net after a huge Nate Thompson faceoff win.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Phillip Danault
As the team’s top pivot, Danault came through like he was supposed to as a leader, a puck-hound, and a player that not only played an excellent game to eliminate the opposition’s best, but he also got his name on the scoresheet in the most important moments of the game. The second period likely looks a lot different if the Habs retreat after a dominant first without a lead. The game could also have been different if the Islanders score the second goal. The top line was there to make sure the Habs stayed on top of this one.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 2 shots, 2 hits, 16:57 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher
The team’s emotional leader was right next to Danault in leading the charge. He made some strong defensive plays, some strong forechecks, and more importantly, he was always in his office to take some punishment, bother Greiss, and put up some crooked numbers.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 6 shots, 1 hit, 14:26 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Shea Weber
With Petry struggling and Victor Mete injured, Ben Chiarot and Weber have been relied upon a ton. Weber answered the call on this night with some physical play, but more importantly a pacing of his energy and some intelligent play. Responsible for an excellent stat line, perhaps the most impress requires one to take a look at the T.O.I. for the Man Mountain in this one.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +3, 3 shots, 29:49 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – The Entire Finnish Line
The line came together to move Matthew Peca as they wanted to take the pregame picture with Saku Koivu. This appeared to inspire the trio’s best effort as they were all over the Islanders with intense forechecking all night long. What is most surprising with this line’s performance is that they ended up goalless because an honest evaluation shows that this was the team’s best line all night long. They did not play in their own zone too often.
Kotkaniemi’s stats: 0 points, -1, 6 hits, 13:53 T.O.I.
Lehkonen’s stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 3 shots, 2 hits, 18:06 T.O.I.
Armia’s stats: 0 points, -1, 4 shots, 1 hit, 17:35 T.O.I.