The Habs came into Saturday night looking to sweep the home-and-home set with the Senators as they welcomed Ottawa to the Bell Centre. Unfortunately, they were down early and never really recovered as they dropped a 6-3 decision.
Dominique Ducharme made a pair of changes from the lineup that won in Ottawa on Thursday night. Carey Price returned between the pipes as expected while Tyler Toffoli was back from his lower-body injury, pushing Michael Frolik back to the taxi squad. Three of the four lines were moved around as a result, resulting in the following lineup:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Toffoli
Perry – Suzuki – Anderson
Byron – Evans – Lehkonen
Phillip Danault’s line has been a table-setter for the Habs in recent games but that wasn’t the case in this one. Brendan Gallagher took a double minor on the opening shift for high sticking Josh Norris, sending Ottawa to the power play. As they did at the end of Thursday’s game, they struck quickly as Drake Batherson sent the puck from the point to Brady Tkachuk; he had room to turn and stuff the puck past Price far-side to make it 1-0 less than a minute in. Montreal was able to kill off the second half without much fanfare.
Just a minute after that penalty expired, the Habs got their first turn with the man advantage when Corey Perry was high sticked by Braydon Coburn in a board battle. They didn’t get much going early but off a broken zone entry, the puck was sitting there for Nick Suzuki to corral it. He did just that and sent a cross-ice feed to Toffoli who one-timed it past Anton Forsberg to even the score.
Three minutes later, Tomas Tatar and Gallagher had a two-on-one. Tatar sent a pass for Gallagher who was tied up from behind by Artem Zub who took a holding penalty for his efforts but he broke up the play and Tatar wasn’t able to score on the rebound. Shea Weber had several shots on the back half of the man advantage but that was all that the Canadiens could muster up.
Not long after the penalty expired, Evgenii Dadonov and Tkachuk failed to connect on what would have been a good scoring chance for Ottawa. The Habs came back the other way and drew another penalty with Danault drawing a tripping call on Nikita Zaitsev.
Unfortunately, it was Ottawa who scored with it. While the Habs won the draw to start the power play, Jeff Petry’s pass was intercepted by Coburn who sent the Senators in on a two-on-one. Nick Paul’s shot was stopped but while Gallagher was hustling back, he wasn’t able to tie up Connor Brown who was able to pot the rebound. Toffoli had a good shot for the equalizer on the ensuing shift as he had a good redirect off a Suzuki pass but Forsberg made the stop.
Montreal had a few more good scoring chances after the power play, including from Toffoli who had a short breakaway after a perfect pass from Jesperi Kotkaniemi but he didn’t have enough runway to deke. He shot instead with Forsberg making the stop. Two minutes later, after a Weber-Tkachuk fight, Jake Evans made a great pass to Artturi Lehkonen from behind the net. Lehkonen drove the net but instead of shooting, opted to pass to Paul Byron who wasn’t able to get a shot off. Ottawa went to the room with a one-goal lead after what was a pretty eventful opening 20 minutes with the Canadiens holding a 14-13 shot advantage.
Artem Anisimov had the first two good chances of the second period. He was first stopped on a three-on-two and then just 15 seconds later, he was sprung on a breakaway but Price came up big.
Four minutes later, Price came up big again, first stopping Brown with the right pad, then sticking out the pad to deny Clark Bishop on the rebound. That was key as the Habs came the other way. Josh Anderson came in on his off-wind and roofed one past Forsberg to tie the game.
However, the tie was short-lived. Less than a minute later, Dadonov tipped a Thomas Chabot point shot past Price to restore the Ottawa lead.
Things settled down for a few minutes after that though there were some decent chances along the way. The last of that stretch was from Toffoli once again but he was unable to stuff home a wraparound attempt off a rebound.
Less than a minute later, Dadonov was left alone in front of Price. Anisimov, being watched by both Kotkaniemi and Jeff Petry (who should have stayed on Dadonov), was able to get the pass out to Dadonov and he made no mistake to double the advantage for the road team. To make matters worse, Gallagher was injured in the neutral zone just before the goal.
Montreal was able to get that one back by the end of the period though. With a little over a minute remaining, Ottawa’s clearing attempt was knocked down by Weber. He fed Suzuki who slid it over to Anderson. Anderson’s initial shot was blocked by Mike Reilly but the winger was able to beat Forsberg with his second attempt to make it 4-3.
The Canadiens were then gifted another power play opportunity when Paul batted the puck out of play. They didn’t get much going with the first half of it but they had 1:06 of carryover time into the third period. The second ended with the same one-goal Ottawa advantage while the Habs outshot them 12-9 in the frame.
Late in the carryover time, Danault attacked off the wing with speed and drove the net. His shot was stopped as was Gallagher’s attempt on the rebound as he returned for the period.
A minute and a half later, off an offensive zone faceoff victory, Toffoli’s shot was blocked. Ottawa came the other way and brought the puck into Montreal’s end. Petry had the puck on his stick but his tough night continued as he turned it over. That allowed Anisimov to get a knuckler off that somehow snuck through to once again give the Sens a two-goal lead.
Three minutes after that, Toffoli had yet another chance, this time off the rush, but he missed the net. After that, there was a long stretch of defensive nonchalance from both teams but most of the ensuing opportunities either missed or were broken up. The last of those came with just over eight minutes left when Price stuck out the pad to deny Bishop once again.
The Habs got one last chance with the man advantage when Zaitsev was called for tripping. Halfway through the power play, Perry and Gallagher teamed up for their jam play but Forsberg was able to keep it out. Paul was then stopped on a two-on-one off the ensuing faceoff. Montreal pulled the goalie late in that stretch but couldn’t score and not long after the advantage ended, Batherson took advantage of a turnover at the offensive blueline to pick up the empty-netter. The fourth line had a good chance late but Byron’s backhand shot just missed.
Price had a tough night in this one, allowing five goals on 31 shots including a couple he’d like back. Forsberg, meanwhile, kicked aside 35 of 38 opportunities. Special teams were key in this one with Ottawa going 1/2 on the power play with the Habs going 1/5 while allowing a shorthanded goal.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Tyler Toffoli – The Habs looked great against Edmonton with the extra rest and this game was Toffoli’s return to the lineup. He, too, looked quite sharp and had plenty of jump. He opened the scoring and had several other prime opportunities that he wasn’t quite able to bury. He has become a key part of Montreal’s offence in his first season with them and his return is certainly a welcome one.
Stats: 1 goal, -2 rating, 4 shots (8 attempts), 5 hits, 17:56 TOI
2nd Star: Josh Anderson – He was more than due to score a goal and picked up Montreal’s other two tallies. Interestingly enough, both of them were from his off-wing. Knowing that Joel Armia is going to be able to practice soon and play not long after, would it make sense to try Anderson on the left side instead of shifting Toffoli back over when everyone is healthy?
Stats: 2 goals, +2 rating, 3 shots, 3/3 faceoffs, 19:02 TOI
3rd Star: Nick Suzuki – He has been quiet as of late but this was one of his better games over the last few weeks. He helped set up a couple of goals and was uncharacteristically strong at the faceoff dot which helped lead to some decent opportunities off set plays in the offensive zone.
Stats: 2 assists, +1 rating, 2 shots, 5 hits, 13/18 faceoffs, 16:54 TOI
Honourable Mention: Alexander Romanov – There are some games where he hasn’t been heard from – that’s not uncommon for rookie defencemen by any stretch – but he was noticeable on the ice in this one and largely in a good way. He was buzzing around the offensive zone a bit more often than usual and was steady in his own end. Unless Marc Bergevin adds some defensive help in the next week or so, they’re going to be counting on Romanov’s improvement to bolster the back end.
Stats: 0 points, +1 rating, 3 shots, 4 hits, 18:49 TOI