The Habs took to the ice for their second test of the season and their first Saturday night contest and faced an opponent that provided much of the same challenges as Wednesday’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The Edmonton Oilers presented a team with far more star power offensively than the Habs have, but the Canadiens needed to take advantage of questionable talent in the offensive depth and defensive side of the game.
The Habs opted to dress the same lineup as Wednesday which was expected since Corey Perry still has to wait for Montreal to clear enough cap space to get him on the official roster. An added advantage for the Canadiens on this night was goaltending as, on paper, Carey Price gave the team a decided advantage over Mikko Koskinen. All of this analysis meant little once the players hit the ice, yet the difference between the pipes was likely the most evident factor as the Habs skated themselves to a decisive 5-1 victory. The victory did little to lessen the overall aura of positivity that is currently surrounding this team.
The Habs came out rather sluggish as the Oilers controlled the opening five minutes of play. They scored on the third shift but there was clear goaltender interference by Leon Draisaitl, even if he was helped by Ben Chiarot.
However, once the Habs found their legs, the Oilers were under siege for the next five minutes. The momentum really swung when Jonathan Drouin found Tyler Toffoli off the bench with an awesome breakout pass that sent in the new Hab on a breakaway that Koskinen stopped.
At 13:45, Caleb Jones took an obstruction penalty on Paul Byron and 35 seconds later, Jeff Petry scored on his own rebound to open the scoring. The Oilers argued that a hand pass occurred but the replay clearly showed that Petry had committed the hand pass to himself so the goal was good.
The next shift saw the Nick Suzuki absolutely dominate as they missed at least three scoring chances. This was capped when Brendan Gallagher rang a bad-angle shot off the goal post as the Habs skated to a 12-3 shot advantage in opening 10 minutes.
Things were not as good in the second half of the period as Shea Weber made two bad decisions with the puck in the neutral zone (he opted for glass instead of pass) which allowed the Oilers to get the puck and attack. Price stood tall and it was actually the Habs that were able to turn in a good shift when Jesperi Kotkaniemi hit the post. On this same shift, Connor McDavid absolutely burned Joel Edmundson for a breakaway but Price once again stood tall. This seemed to ignite McDavid, but with only three minutes left in the period, he exchanged some dangerous offensive chances with Josh Anderson with both goaltenders not giving an inch as the period concluded.
The Habs started the second period on a penalty kill after Weber took a penalty in the dying seconds of the first period. Edmonton’s lethal power play threatened but Price was stellar as McDavid found Draisaitl cross-ice twice.
The next shift after the penalty saw Phillip Danault’s line attack as Danault made a short pass to Tomas Tatar who sent a one-timer toward the net that fooled Koskinen to extend the lead to 2-0. Toffoli then whiffed on a shot when his line was awarded a 3-on-1 by the porous Edmonton defence.
With 12:33 to go, Danault’s line dominated a shift by cycling in the offensive zone. Petry pinched in, won his race and fired a rather soft shot toward the net. The puck bounced off Koskinen, hit Ethan Bear, and went in to make it 3-0.
Only 20 seconds later, Artturi Lehkonen batted a puck out of mid-air into the stands for a penalty. On the ensuing power play, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fanned on a rebound that created a two-on-one where Paul Byron’s speed forced the defender to cover him which left Jake Evans all alone. Koskinen made the initial stop, but Evans picked up his own rebound to make it 4-0.
The score being what it was, the rest of the period saw both teams take it down a gear. With less than two minutes to play, Drouin took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone. Edmonton’s stars got going a bit, but Price made another three solid saves which was evident as some Edmonton players (notably Draisaitl) started looking at the ceiling after being denied chances.
The third started with a 40-second power play for Edmonton, who got one good look that was shrugged off by Price. With play back at even strength, it was evident that the outcome was accepted by both teams and both teams saw a number of players content to go through the motions. The play was still fast, but the physicality of the opening two periods was noticeably dialled down.
As expected, the play was mostly in Montreal’s defensive zone, but they did an excellent job of limiting the chances and Price handled the rest. Just before the midway point in the period, Tatar scored his second of the night when Gallagher made a shifty play on the breakout to create an opening. Tatar took it and flew out of the zone to be given a breakaway that he tucked home to put the game out of reach for good.
The Oilers finally spoiled the shutout bid for a deserving Price. Slater Koekkoek received a nice pass from Tyson Barrie and had his first shot blocked by Lehkonen. He picked up his own rebound and rifled a strange angle shot off of Price’s mask to get the deed done. It was all the offence Edmonton had in them on this night, but Darnell Nurse did take a penalty that the Habs didn’t capitalize on their power play in the dying minutes.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Carey Price
Seems rather strange to be listing the goaltender as the top player in such a decisive victory, doesn’t it? However, through the first and the start of the second period, the offensive stars of the Oilers had some really great looks, and if Price were playing like he was in Toronto on Wednesday, the Oilers were in the game. Price was dialled in on this night so he made a myriad of solid saves that he made look easy as he followed the Oilers’ passing across the ice to
Stats: 35 shots faced, 34 saves, .971 SV%, 1.00 G.A.A.
2nd Star – Jeff Petry
Petry has games where he’s flying all over the ice and creating offensive chances. This wasn’t one of those games. Instead, Petry had a quiet game, but it was a game where he made every single right play and took what the opposition gave him. He was physical in front of Price and made some great breakout passes which is important since Edmundson appears to be looking for him often. Both his goals are examples of his patience on this night. On the power play, he made a pass toward Weber which resulted in Edmonton covering that side. When the puck found him again, he used Suzuki as a screen and drove the net and ended up with a goal. If he starts to use intelligence with his skill, boy, might this guy really fire on all cylinders and become a consistent threat.
Stats: 2 goals, +3, 5 shots, 3 hits, 21:52 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Tomas Tatar
Tatar gets the statistical nod here, but really that entire line was the least impressive of the top-9 against Toronto and they were too in the opening frame of this game. They woke up in the second as they appeared to stop being content with defending. They wanted to get in on the fun and play some offensive shift. With their legs moving and the cycle game working, the scorer on the line got on the board twice. The Kotkaniemi line has been getting chances; if they can start putting it in, this team will be really hard to contain as the opposition won’t know where to look for the scoring. Great game for the Danault line.
Stats: 2 goals, +3, 2 shots, 1 hits, 13:52 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Brett Kulak
How crazy that Suzuki, Drouin, and Anderson play excellent games (especially in the first to set the tone) and there is no need to mention them here because it was said last game and enough players have stepped up to discuss other player’s excellent play. I want to bring up Brett Kulak who had an excellent playoff last season. Historically, his issue has been consistency, yet he looks solid despite the demotion to the third pair and the responsibility of playing with the rookie. He hasn’t missed a beat from last year’s postseason. If he can play 40-45 games out of 56 like the two we’ve seen so far, he’ll be in real danger of being a person of interest for the Seattle Kraken next offseason.
Stats: 1 shot, 14:38 T.O.I.