The Habs went to the Canadian Tire Centre to take on the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night in a battle of two teams mired in long losing streaks. After a pretty good opening frame, in which Montreal took the lead, Ottawa started to take over the game through the second period. Late in the third, a fluky goal tied the game, and it looked as though the Habs were deflated and on track for another loss. However, they pushed the game to overtime, and a beautiful goal by Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Canadiens their first win of 2020.
After suffering from headaches in his return to the lineup Thursday, Brendan Gallagher did not make the trip to Ottawa. Fresh off the IR, Mathew Peca took his spot in the lineup. That was the only return from injury for the Habs, as Ben Chiarot was still sidelined. Claude Julien opted for one other change though as Dale Weise was in for Jordan Weal.
The Canadiens had a pretty good start to the game and all four lines were playing well. Ottawa barely saw the offensive zone through the first half of the opening frame. Standing out in a good way throughout the first period was Marco Scandella. He was flying around the ice and joined the rush for a few early high-danger chances.
Around eight minutes into the game, Dylan DeMelo hit Max Domi from behind. On the subsequent power play, Jeff Petry and Nick Suzuki were working the puck between the blue line and the right wing. Once a lane opened up, Suzuki fired a shot and picked the corner on Marcus Hogberg to give the Canadiens the opening goal.
With eight minutes to go, Cousins was sent off for a weak cross-check, giving the Sens their first power play. Just twenty seconds into the penalty, Drake Batherson hooked Artturi Lehkonen to make it four-on-four.
Just as Batherson’s penalty expired, he made a poke check on the puck carrier while standing in the box, so he got another two minutes. The Habs had one great chance on the man advantage. Coming into the zone, Kovalchuk faked a shot and slid the puck over to Phillip Danault. Danault was in alone but was stopped by Hogberg.
Hogberg continued to keep Ottawa in the game when with just over one minute to go in the period, Kotkaniemi set up Lehkonen for a one-timer but Hogberg got across to make a nice pad save just in time. The Habs finished the period up 1-0, but it was one of the better periods they had played in a while.
Midway through the second period, Brady Tkachuk was called for interference after cross-checking Victor Mete into Carey Price. The Habs couldn’t muster up anything while one man up. However, the Sens had a great chance on a Chris Tierney breakaway that Price was able to stop and squeeze before it could cross the line.
The Habs did put some pressure on after the penalty as the top line managed to keep the Senators hemmed in the zone. This was mostly thanks to some great retrieval and passing from Kovalchuk. Montreal had a few high danger chances but couldn’t find the insurance marker.
Ottawa started to come on towards the end of the middle frame. Their best chance came when Thomas Chabot appeared to have a wide-open net, but he hit the side of the goal. The Senators had several dangerous-looking chances but couldn’t tie it up. Price looked dialled in during the second period, and he did not allow anything to get past him. Thanks to their star goalie and a little bit of puck luck, Montreal kept their slim lead going into the third period.
One minute into the third period, Scandella was called for tripping. Tierney was also sent off for embellishing on the play so the teams played some four on four hockey. A minute later, former Hab Mike Reilly was left in the slot. Price came across and stopped his point-blank slapper.
The Habs took back to back penalties seven minutes into the third. The first was an interference call by Mete. The Canadiens penalty killers came up big and did not give Ottawa anything. Shortly after that one was over, Tomas Tatar was called for holding. Price and the Habs came up with another monumental kill to keep the slim lead intact.
With six minutes left in the third, the Sens finally found a way to beat Price. It was a totally fluky goal. The puck was loose in front, and through a maze of skates and sticks, something hit the puck and it went in. Batherson was credited with the goal.
The Habs struggled to turn it back on after the equalizer, and with five minutes to go in the third, they found themselves being outshot 15-2 in the third.
Ottawa got yet another power play chance when Scandella was called for his second tripping penalty of the period. On the penalty, Montreal had a glorious chance. Ryan Poehling and Nate Thompson played a two on one absolutely perfectly, but Thompson missed a wide-open net. They did kill off the penalty at least.
The Habs held the puck for the last minute but didn’t direct anything at the net so the game went off to overtime with the score knotted at ones. Early in overtime, Domi sent Kovalchuk in for a breakaway but Hogberg came up with a big save to keep the game going.
With one minute to go in the extra frame, Kovalchuk carried the puck into the zone one on one. He waited for Danault to be open on the right wing. He then sold the pass before firing a shot off the post and in. An elated Habs bench rushed onto the ice to congratulate Kovalchuk, Price, and the rest of the team for a big win.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Carey Price
This might have been Price’s best performance of the season. He was virtually unbeatable all night and the only one that beat him was a pure fluke. Price was attacking shooters all night and was always in the perfect position. The Habs can have a chance to get back into the playoff conversation, but they will need to do it on the back of more performances like this from their best player.
Stats: win, 41 saves, .976 save %
Second Star – Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk came close to ending it early in the overtime, and he was not denied on his second chance. He played the one on one perfectly in the overtime, and it was a hell of a shot to win it. He was strong in the offensive zone all night and is looking more and more comfortable on his new team.
Stats: GWG, +1, 4 SOG, 20:26 TOI
Third Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki looked strong again in this one. He is one of the big reasons why the power play is much better now than it ever was last year. He was also involved in the penalty killing that saved the game in the third. Suzuki is gaining more and more trust from the coaches and is becoming one of the more important players on the team.
Stats: 1G, 1 SOG, 2 hits, 17:44 TOI
Honourable Mention – The Penalty Kill
The Habs would not have had a shot at the overtime winner if it wasn’t for the penalty killers coming up huge in the third period. They held the Sens off the scoresheet all night, despite several chances in the third period. Thompson and Poehling also came inches away from winning the game with a late shorthanded goal.
Stats: 4 for 4