After a tough first week, the Habs were back in action on Tuesday night as they hosted San Jose. Unfortunately, they struggled early and were out of it quickly, ultimately falling 5-0.
Dominique Ducharme made a pair of lineup changes for this one. Mike Hoffman was activated off IR and took Mathieu Perreault’s spot while Adam Brooks subbed in for the injured Jake Evans. Hoffman and Brooks teamed up with Brendan Gallagher on the third line.
Montreal was hoping for a strong start and let’s just say they didn’t get it. Less than a minute and a half in, a wrister from Brent Burns was redirected in traffic and got through both Jeff Petry and Jake Allen. The goal was originally credited Timo Meier but was later changed to Jonathan Dahlen.
Barely two minutes later, that line was out again for San Jose. Logan Couture got behind David Savard and in on Allen. Allen made a good stop on the partial breakaway but the rebound was available for Dahlen to pot his second of the game as Christian Dvorak – who had come close to a scoring chance at the other end – wasn’t able to get back quite in time.
Hoffman tried to get involved physically early on – not something he normally does – and the result was a bit odd. His hit on Andrew Cogliano drew the ire of Erik Karlsson. Brendan Gallagher stepped in, dropped the gloves, and tried to get some punches in. It wasn’t called a fight but the Habs got the extra two minutes in the box. To their credit, the penalty kill did well.
That set off a stretch of more than 10 minutes where basically nothing happened on either side. There were a few attempts at making something happen but it was choppy play on both sides.
That changed when Hoffman was called for a hook on Radim Simek with three minutes left in the frame. San Jose’s second unit generated some chances and while the Canadiens were able to kill off the penalty, they weren’t out of the woods just yet. With just 27 seconds left, a quick shot from Karlsson at the point went off Savard and past Allen, making it 3-0 for the visitors heading to the room. Shots on goal in the period were 12-3 for the Sharks.
Montreal had a good shift to start the second period. An innocent-looking shot from Savard gave Adin Hill some trouble and he kicked out a rebound to Dvorak but managed to stop it too. The puck made its way back to the point it was the Canadiens turn to tip a point shot past the goalie. Unfortunately, Dvorak’s redirection hit the post and not the back of the net, keeping them off the scoreboard.
That proved to be costly. Less than two minutes later, Cole Caufield slashed Dahlen who somehow had gotten around coverage and was in alone on Allen. The slash stopped what would have been a good scoring chance but it only delayed the inevitable. Halfway through San Jose’s man advantage, Couture slid a pass from the point over to Meier who snapped one past Allen from the faceoff dot.
The Canadiens got what was their best chance of the game at the time seconds after the goal as Josh Anderson was sprung on a breakaway but Hill made the stop. The puck stayed in the zone and eventually, Jasper Weatherby put the puck in the crowd, leading to a power play for the Habs. They had a couple of shots but didn’t muster up much.
That led to another extended stretch of nothing much happening. San Jose was content to clog up the passing lanes and while Montreal started to establish themselves a bit more in the offensive end, they weren’t able to do much over that time aside from a couple of chances from the Dvorak line. Caufield had a good chance off the draw with a little over three minutes left but Hill made a nice glove stop on it to keep the home side with a zero in the goal column after 40 minutes. Shots on goal were 11-5 for the Canadiens.
Ducharme opted to play around with his lines a bit late in the second and kept them for the third as Hoffman and Caufield swapped places with the former joining Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli and the latter with Brooks and Gallagher.
A good shift from the fourth line early in the third ultimately led to Lane Pederson taking a holding penalty on Ben Chiarot. Jonathan Drouin and Hoffman both had outside shots while Caufield caught the crossbar but that’s as close at they got.
Two minutes later, Suzuki got around Karlsson with speed, creating a mini two-on-one with Toffoli. However, his pass across was broken up by Jacob Middleton. A minute and a half after that, a point shot from Kulak made its way to Chris Wideman who had time and space with plenty of net to shoot at…and missed. It was that kind of night for the Canadiens.
With just under nine minutes left, Allen made a nice glove stop on a backhand shot from Rudolfs Balcers. However, he’d be beaten again a few minutes later; after Chiarot was called for roughing on William Eklund, Karlsson set up Kevin Labanc for a one-timer from the dot to make it 5-0, capping off a night to forget for the Canadiens.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Cole Caufield – Caufield is the type of player who you notice most when he’s scoring. Of course, no one is doing that right now but he’s starting to get more involved in the play and didn’t look out of place on his off-wing in the third. Baby steps but this is what happened last year – a slow start, some gradual improvement, and then the goals started coming.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 2 PIMS, 2 shots, 13:00 TOI
2nd Star: Josh Anderson – He tried to get the Habs going with a big hit after San Jose made it 2-0 and he generated their best chance of the game with a breakaway. His line was Montreal’s best once again.
Stats: 0 points, -2 rating, 3 shots, 5 hits, 18:19 TOI
3rd Star: Brett Kulak – With Sami Niku now healthy, the pressure is on Kulak a bit more. He responded relatively well, getting involved at times offensively while there weren’t many issues in his own end. These are the types of games that can help him stand out compared to Niku and Chris Wideman who are better offensively but make more mistakes defensively. This coaching staff is a cautious one and Kulak can use that to his benefit.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 1 shot, 2 hits, 15:42 TOI
Honourable Mention: Adam Brooks – I could easily have picked someone else off Anderson’s line but I want to highlight Brooks who was better defensively than I was expecting. He got some spot minutes on the penalty kill which helps his cause and didn’t look out of place in his first game aside from struggling at the faceoff dot. When Jake Evans is ready to return, he needs to be back in the lineup but it probably shouldn’t be Brooks being the one to automatically come out to make room for him.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 2 hits, 2/10 faceoffs, 12:32 TOI