The Habs continued their busy week with a rare Friday night contest as they returned home to host the Vancouver Canucks. With three points out of four in their last two contests, the Habs opted to mostly keep the same lineup as the last two games. The exception to this was a start for Jake Allen who faced Thatcher Demko.
For the second straight contest, the Habs were able to overcome a not so good game to earn a point in the standings as they came back in the third to earn a 3-2 overtime loss. At some point, they’ll have to overcome the 3-on-3 to gain the second point, but for the second consecutive game, there is an excellent argument that they really did not deserve the first one, so glass half full, I guess.
The game got underway with the Habs creating scoring chances as Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Drouin forced early Demko saves to keep the game scoreless.
The start of the game went from bad to worse for the Canucks as Nick Suzuki tripped over his own skates but the official called a completely phantom tripping penalty on Antoine Roussel. The man advantage was dangerous for most of the sequence and finally put one home. After Corey Perry faked his usual backhand pass and caused confusion for the Canucks, he returned the puck to the point for a Jeff Petry point shot. Perry continued to skate and was in his office to grab the rebound and open the scoring with a power play rebound goal.
The second half of the period didn’t start out so well as Shea Weber was called for tripping. A great effort by Jeff Petry on the penalty kill ensured that the Canucks didn’t really threaten during the sequence. However, the rest of the period was mostly controlled by Vancouver as they circled their offensive zone but were mostly kept to the outside by good defending by the Habs. Allen was there with spectacular stops two or three times when the Canucks managed to get to the middle. In the final moments of the period, Tyler Toffoli and Jonathan Drouin both missed good scoring chances as they missed the net, a theme for the Habs on this night.
The Habs were late returning from the intermission and were unfortunately down 2-1 before they realized the game had resumed. Adam Gaudette and Nils Hoglander scored in the opening 6:37 for the Canucks to take the lead. On the Gaudette goal, a strange pinch by Weber compounded by lazy backchecking from Joel Armia left Xavier Ouellet alone as Antoine Roussel beat him to a loose puck and fired the pass to the front of the net. On the Hoglander goal, it was Petry who was caught being over-aggressive in the defensive zone that left him out of position and allowed Hoglander to tip home the point shot.
The Habs woke up in the second half of the period as they spent the majority of that time in the Vancouver zone, but they continually missed the net. Despite the many missed attempts and the bad start, they still managed to finish the period with a 13-10 shot advantage. With five minutes left, a very first Alexander Romanov end-to-end rush created some buzz and forced Quinn Hughes to take a hooking minor. A note of the blue line, where Weber and Edmundson continued to struggle on this night, Romanov had a much better game. So much so that he was rewarded with some extra time on the ice in the third when Montreal was looking for the equalizer. Regardless, the power play in this instance was futile and the period ended with the Canucks up 2-1.
The third started with Montreal causing their own hardships as they made inaccurate passes all over the ice which resulted in Vancouver getting some offensive zone time and tiring out the Habs players. Just before the midway point in the period, some excellent forechecking by Perry allowed him to recover a puck and find Suzuki in the slot but Demko was quite aggressive in playing the shot and managed to stop the Suzuki shot. This was immediately followed by a Petry shot that hit the post after a Phillip Danault-won faceoff.
The final ten minutes started with a great shift from the fourth line as Joel Armia and Paul Byron tipped Weber point shots but were met with Demko saves. After minutes of domination in the offensive zone, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was called for high sticking on a rare Canucks rush. The Canucks man advantage did not capitalize on their occasion and at the very end of the sequence, a great pinch by Romanov created a scoring chance for Toffoli. The end of that play saw Jake Virtanen inexplicably punch Toffoli while the latter was already being held by a Canuck defender in a headlock, gifting the Habs a power play. The Canadiens got some offensive zone time but could not score. Things looked bleak, but coach Ducharme attempted to pull Allen with a little over 90 seconds to play.
With the net empty, the Habs missed two glorious chance as Toffoli missed a pass from Perry down low and then a Suzuki one-timer was missed when his stick exploded.
With a minute left, Tyler Motte was accurately called for clearing the puck over the glass which meant a 6-on-4 and it lasted all of eight seconds before Suzuki used the Perry and Brendan Gallagher screens to fire home the tying goal with 56 seconds to play.
The 0-8 overtime Habs started the extra period with Danault, Byron, and Petry which leads to some sort of explanation about insanity and repetition and expecting different results. The play was a complete chess match for the first two minutes as both teams were careful with the puck when they had control. This was until Anderson was sent on a breakaway but he missed the net… again. The rebound went to Hughes who sent a pass to J.T. Miller who went wide on Tatar before toe-dragging around Suzuki and burying the winner to make the ugly Habs OT record 0-9.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jeff Petry
It’s true, Petry was caught being overly aggressive on a Canucks goal. He’s still the best Habs defender by a country mile and the catalyst for far too much of their offence considering he’s a defender. This game was no different as he hit a post, was directly responsible for the first goal, and had the Canucks cheating towards him when Suzuki fired home the tying goal in the final minute.
Stats: 2 assists, -1, 1 shot, 2 hits, 23:04 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Corey Perry
Weren’t all the experts saying that Perry was finished and that he wouldn’t bring much other than if the Habs could get to the playoffs? Well, Perry was in on both Habs goals, AGAIN. He was the catalyst of his own goal with a clever play down low where he faked his usual back-hand pass to get all of the Canucks out of position. Then he was screening Demko for the equalizer. He does all of this while never costing the team defensively. In fact, he’s currently one of the only sure bets to get the puck out of the defensive zone when the breakout is on his side.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 shot, 11:04 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Alexander Romanov
As is the case with many young players, Romanov has off games where he’s pretty much out to lunch. Those games are often followed by what we saw in this one. He was engaged, winning his puck battles, and joining the rush in the proper moments to create scoring chances. Games like this show the potential of what Romanov can become and definitely push many to want to see it sooner rather than later, but we have to remember to be patient in his case.
Stats: 2 shots, 5 hits, 18:22 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Tyler Toffoli
Toffoli continues to be sneaky good. He goes long stretches in games where he’s mostly invisible (but not hurting defensively), and then he’ll find himself open, start to feel it and get 3-4 good chances within a five-minute window. Tonight was no different as this narrative that’s been ongoing all season long continued. What was different was that Toffoli spent the night missing the net. He was still one of the most dangerous Habs on this night but just couldn’t capitalize.
Stats: -1, 2 shots, 20:07 T.O.I.