The Habs went into Saturday’s game against Vancouver looking to take two of three out of the set. It was a more defensive effort but in the end, they were able to put up five goals again and skated away with a 5-2 win.
The Canadiens made a pair of lineup changes for this one. Carey Price got the start in goal after having Thursday’s victory off while Corey Perry made his Montreal debut in place of Joel Armia who is out with a concussion. Meanwhile, the Canucks welcomed a familiar face back in their lineup as former Hab Jordie Benn made his season debut.
With the previous two games being high-tempo affairs, it was expected that this would be a slower-paced one. That was the case as the only shots in the first five minutes were point shots from Montreal’s defenders. Joel Edmundson and Tyler Myers dropped the gloves in a fight that was discussed during the warmup with Edmundson getting the nod.
Shortly after that, the Canadiens had their best chance of the early going when Jesperi Kotkaniemi attacked with speed, creating a mini two-on-one but Braden Holtby made the stop off Tyler Toffoli’s shot. Moments later, Josh Anderson was called for interference, sending Vancouver to the power play. A give-and-go with Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller looked dangerous but it missed the net. At the halfway point of the period, the shots were a whopping 4-1 for the Habs.
Montreal’s next shot went in the net to open the scoring. Brett Kulak got the puck at centre ice, skated it into the offensive zone, and sent a quick pass from the right faceoff dot right to Nick Suzuki who quickly sniped it home.
The Canucks had some dangerous-looking chances not long after with Price very slow to follow the puck, leaving the net briefly vacated. However, both of their shot attempts missed the net. They came a bit closer with just over six minutes to go when Boeser hit the post on a redirect attempt on a pass that went right through Ben Chiarot’s legs. On the next shift, Suzuki wasn’t able to convert a tap-in attempt at the other end.
Alex Edler also made his return for Vancouver in this one and got away with a trip on Anderson. On the next shift, Perry was called for tripping Brandon Sutter who was pivoting with the puck and wasn’t quite on balance. Elias Pettersson hit the post at the midway point of the power play and seconds later, Boeser took a slashing penalty to negate the rest of the advantage. The final seconds were played at four-on-four with Montreal’s abbreviated power play starting in the second period. There were a few more shots in the second half of the frame with the Habs holding the 11-5 advantage after 20 minutes.
That power play to start the second period looked a lot like last year’s man advantage. However, Brendan Gallagher drew a slashing call on Jay Beagle just as it expired, giving them another opportunity. It took until the second half of the advantage to get established in the offensive zone and after a couple of choreographed Shea Weber blasts, Toffoli had a chance in the slot but it went off Benn and wide. On his next five-on-five shift, Toffoli missed on a wide-open net on a perfect pass from Perry.
Vancouver got their next chance with the man advantage after Nick Suzuki was called for delay of game on another puck over the glass play. Price and Alexander Romanov had a miscommunication on the dump in and the penalty came on the subsequent clear out attempt. The Habs had the best chance those as Jake Evans hit the post while Toffoli’s adventurous period continued as he rammed into Holtby as he followed the play, earning a penalty while Bo Horvat got a matching minor for roughly.
Not long after those penalties expired, Olli Juolevi rang a shot off the post and Montreal came up with the puck and got going in transition. Perry looked as if he was trying to pass across the crease but he wound up getting it through Holtby to double Montreal’s lead with the help of Juolevi’s stick.
A minute later, the Canucks had their best chance as Zack MacEwen muscled off a check and sent a perfect cross-ice feed to Jake Virtanen but Price came across to get the stop with the pad. Vancouver looked to have numbers in the offensive zone again not long after but Perry broke up a two-on-one pass.
Perry’s strong period continued soon after as he made a pretty deke around the defender on the rush although he wasn’t able to get a shot on goal. The following shift, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was denied on a breakaway, allowing Vancouver to head to the room just down two. Having said that, the Canucks found their skating legs in the second half of the period and had Montreal hemmed in for longer stretches than they had earlier in the game. Shots on goal in the second were 8-7 for Vancouver.
The third period started off quietly until the festivities opened up when Pettersson redirected a Benn shot to get Vancouver on the board. It was close to being a high stick but it looked to be just under the bar.
Montreal had a good bounce back shift with Perry getting a couple of whacks at the puck in tight. Next shift, Paul Byron (who was in after being a game-time decision) whiffed on a one-timer attempt in the slot which proved costly as a minute later, the Habs were chasing the puck around in their own end and paid the price. Horvat was stopped in close but the puck cycled back to the point and onto Nils Hoglander’s stick. He let a weak backhander go but with Chiarot screening Price, it was enough to get in to tie the score.
Once again, the Canadiens had a good response, this time from the fourth line. As their shift ended, the Phillip Danault line came on. Tatar took advantage of a bad giveaway and poked the puck into the zone while Danault tagged up. Tatar then recovered the puck and sent it to Brendan Gallagher who whistled it home to give Montreal the lead back. Vancouver challenged for offside but the call on the ice was upheld.
That resulted in a power play for the Habs which they did absolutely nothing with and the Canucks had two good opportunities as soon as the advantage ended. However, the Habs were able to force a turnover at the top of the blueline and Anderson was able to poke it ahead for Jonathan Drouin. He caught up to it and went in on a breakaway, going five-hole on Holtby to double the lead. It was his first goal in 20 games dating back to last season and the bubble. A couple of minutes later, the two had another scoring opportunity with a two-on-one but this time Anderson held it and Holtby made the stop off the shot.
Travis Green was aggressive with his goalie pull, yanking Holtby with around 4:20 to go. The Canucks had some offensive zone time but eventually Edmundson was able to corral the puck and launched a perfectly-placed shot into the yawning cage; the puck didn’t hit the ice until it was over the goal line. Drouin had a chance a minute later with Holtby back in and tried the same five-hole move again but this time was denied. It didn’t matter though as Montreal skated away with the 5-2 win, giving them 10 of a possible 12 points on their season-opening road trip.
Price made 23 stops on 25 shots for the win, the 350th of his career, making him the fifth-fastest player in league history to hit that mark. Holtby turned aside 28 of 32 in the losing effort. Neither team was able to score with their three power play opportunities.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Corey Perry – For someone that hadn’t played all season, my expectations were pretty low going in. However, he started off well and only got better as the game progressed to the point where that line was getting extra ice time. His goal was hardly a pretty one but he was involved around the net all night. They’re not going to get this from him every game but this was definitely a solid debut.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 4 shots, 15:19 TOI
2nd Star: Tyler Toffoli – Scorers are streaky and after seeing Toffoli pop five in two games, we saw the other side of that in this one. So why is he here? He was extremely involved in the play, made the right reads, drove the net, and did everything right aside from missing empty nets. There’s a reason he had a lot more ice time than every other Montreal forward out there.
Stats: 1 assist, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 2 shots, 19:27 TOI
3rd Star: Jonathan Drouin – He was pretty quiet through two periods and then was much more noticeable in the third period. His goal really helped settle Montreal down and gave them the cushion to make the final few minutes a lot less stressful. He didn’t play a lot but he made a noticeable impact.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 shots, 12:32 TOI
Honourable Mention: Jeff Petry – Statistically speaking, he had a quieter game than usual and his point streak came to an end but he was quietly solid. After seeing him play a big role in the other games, it was nice to see him have a very efficient evening and the Habs simply dominated both in shots and scoring chances when he was out there.
Stats: 0 points, +2 rating, 19:45 TOI