On Saturday afternoon, the Habs looked to avenge their Thursday night loss as they travelled to Ottawa for a rematch against the Senators. It wasn’t a pretty game but they did just enough to pull off the 2-1 victory.
While some wondered if Carey Price might get his second straight start between the pipes after a bit of a tough outing on Thursday, Claude Julien opted to stick to his schedule which meant that Jake Allen got the nod. That was the only change Montreal made with Victor Mete remaining the lone healthy scratch.
The game got off to an odd start as on the opening shift, Evgenii Dadonov bumped Ben Chiarot with what seemed like a pretty minor hit. However, it was enough to pop the glass, resulting in an early delay.
Montreal had the first two good chances of the contest. Phillip Danault made a nice pass off the boards to himself and got a good backhand shot off at the three-minute mark that Matt Murray stopped. A minute and a half later, Jesperi Kotkaniemi got the puck off a Thomas Chabot turnover but his shot from the slot missed the net.
One minute after that, the Canadiens got their first power play after Erik Brannstrom was sent off for interference. Julien opted to move Shea Weber to the second unit, leaving Jeff Petry as the lone blueliner at the point. The change paid immediate dividends as his point shot went off a skate and past Murray with Corey Perry providing the screen.
Ottawa got their first chance with the man advantage not long after that and they made Montreal’s penalty kill look bad. They generated several chances in the slot and had the defenders chasing the play in their own end. Their pressure paid off as a failed Allen clearing attempt worked its way to the other side of the ice where a centring feed made it to Colin White who tapped it home to tie it up.
It was all Montreal from there as they outshot Ottawa 11-1 the rest of the period. Kotkaniemi had two more chances in close while Perry had the best chance on a late power play but they weren’t able to regain the lead before the buzzer. The two teams went to their rooms all tied up at one with the Canadiens holding a 19-8 shot advantage.
Gallagher had a good shot on the first shift of the second period but couldn’t get it to go. In general, Montreal had a pretty good start to the frame over the first five minutes but couldn’t retake the lead.
Just before the seven-minute mark, Kotkaniemi set up Artturi Lehkonen for a good shot on a three-on-two rush that was denied. The Sens came back the other way and missed a wraparound attempt although Gallagher took a hooking penalty soon after. The penalty kill was more aggressive this time around and they were able to kill it off although Ottawa’s second unit was dangerous again.
As that power play expired, Chabot made a nice move at the point to dangle around the Montreal defender and got a good shot off from the slot that Allen stopped. On the next shift, Nikita Zaitsev’s point shot redirected off Petry’s stick and off the crossbar.
The Habs then ran into more penalty trouble as Jake Evans and Brett Kulak both received high-sticking minors for clipping Tim Stutzle over the final eight minutes. The second of the two penalties created some chances at both ends; Brady Tkachuk’s redirect hit the post and at the other end, Tyler Toffoli whiffed on a cross-crease pass. In the dying seconds of the second penalty, Lehkonen forced a turnover, skated behind the Ottawa net, and set up Shea Weber but he wasn’t able to get much on his shot which went wide.
Montreal seemed to wake up after those kills and started to push the play back in Ottawa’s end over the final few minutes of the period but the score was the same after 40 minutes as it was after 20. Shots on goal in the second were 13-8 for the Sens although Montreal didn’t have any in the final 13 minutes of the frame.
They got a few quick ones early in the third, however. Petry fired the puck down the ice for what would have been an icing but Jonathan Drouin beat it out and got a good shot off on Murray who made the stop. Nick Suzuki followed up on the rebound and was also stopped but another rebound was kicked out, this time to Josh Anderson who put it home.
Alex Galchenyuk had a good rush on the ensuing shift that Allen was able to get a piece of. However, the puck did trickle through but Alexander Romanov was able to clear it out of harm’s way before Derek Stepan got there. That seemed to get Ottawa going as they fired off 10 consecutive shots following Anderson’s goal with the Habs being on their heels.
Jake Evans was forced to miss some time after taking a hit to the head from Erik Gudbranson. There wasn’t a penalty on the play and Evans had to go through concussion protocol before he was able to return. Not long after that, Perry had a good defensive play, batting the puck out of midair as the Senators continued to press.
Ottawa looked as if they’d get a great opportunity after Ben Chiarot got his glove into Tkachuk’s neck, sending him off for holding. However, Montreal’s penalty kill got the job done and halfway through it, Suzuki drew a holding penalty of his own with Chabot being sent off. The Habs got a couple of shots off on the abbreviated power play but couldn’t get the clincher.
That made for an interesting final few seconds. With 13 seconds left, Chabot’s point shot found its way through a screen but Allen made the stop. The Habs then iced the puck with six seconds to go. Off the ensuing draw, Chiarot cross-checked Stutzle in the back of the next, giving Ottawa one more crack but Suzuki was able to win the faceoff and run out the clock.
Allen was quite impressive once again for Montreal, turning aside 34 of 35 shots in the win. At the other end, Murray had his second straight strong outing, kicking away 32 of 34. Both teams scored with the man advantage with the Habs going 1/3 and Ottawa 1/6.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Jake Allen – Even though there were some close moments, there was an aura of confidence that Allen wasn’t going to let another one beat him which allowed Montreal to wake up long enough to get the winner. Did he face a barrage of high-quality shots? No, but he was peppered enough that the Habs needed his ‘A’ game to get the win. With four victories, he now has as many as Montreal’s backups combined from last season (Charlie Lindgren had two while Keith Kinkaid and Cayden Primeau had one each).
Stats: 34 saves on 35 shots, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%
2nd Star: Jeff Petry – I thought he was a bit under-utilized in this one, to be honest. He had the big power play goal early and a few good chances after that. He was pinned in his own end a bit more than usual although that could be said for just about every Hab given how poorly they played in the second half of the game.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 4 shots, 4 hits, 2 blocks, 20:04 TOI
3rd Star: Nick Suzuki – This wasn’t his best game by any stretch but I was curious to see how he’d perform after he basically called himself out for poor play on Thursday’s game. He was one of Montreal’s better two-way threats in this game and while his overall faceoff performance was once again poor, he won the draws late when he needed to.
Stats: 1 assist, +1 rating, 1 shot, 2 takeaways, 2 blocks, 6/17 faceoffs, 19:57 TOI
Honourable Mention: Josh Anderson – After how he performed in the third period on Thursday, I expected a big game from him in this one. He didn’t really provide that for the most part but at the end of the day, he scored the game-winner so he wound up having a big impact after all.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 1 shot, 1 hit, 1 block, 15:10 TOI