The Habs had another opportunity to secure a second straight victory on Sunday afternoon and they did just that, overcoming a late Islander goal to pick up a 3-2 win in a shootout.
Martin St. Louis made a trio of lineup changes for this one, one by choice and two out of necessity. Andrew Hammond got his first start as a Hab while Ben Chiarot returned from IR with Corey Schueneman now in COVID protocol. Up front, Joel Armia was unable to play after taking a skate blade to the face on Thursday which allowed Michael Pezzetta to suit up for the first time this month on the fourth line in Armia’s place.
Pezzetta made an immediate impact as on his first shift, he threw a hard hit on Sebastian Aho, one that drew the ire of Matt Martin. Martin dropped his gloves, tried to throw a punch, and earned himself two minutes for roughing. Cole Caufield looked dangerous on the first wave as everything flowed through him (perhaps a bit too much). The second unit couldn’t get set up and New York got out of it unscathed.
Pezzetta made another impact a few minutes later. At the nine-minute mark, Jeff Petry’s point shot bounced near Pezzetta who was at the front of the net. The change of direction was enough to get it just past Ilya Sorokin as the puck just crossed the goal line. Pezzetta originally was credited with the goal but it was changed to Petry as it was ruled the puck hit Ryan Pulock and not Pezzetta.
Two minutes later, the Isles came in two-on-one. J-G Pageau opted to send the pass across to Zach Parise but he couldn’t get the shot off. Seconds later, Cal Clutterbuck had a big hit on Caufield, one that drew the disdain of Josh Anderson. The Montreal winger was called for roughing in a play that similar to the one Martin was called for, sending the home side to the power play. New York’s first wave was good and had a couple of good chances while Rem Pitlick had a good opportunity in the second half of the penalty kill as he intercepted a pass and got a good shot off, helping to kill the penalty. (He also got away with a trip seconds later.)
While the Habs did well to limit New York’s chances in the period (Hammond was particularly sharp as well), they got into some penalty trouble. First, Laurent Dauphin was called for a hook on Aho with less than a minute and a half to go. While they were able to avoid allowing the equalizer, Jake Evans was called for a hook at the buzzer, giving the Islanders a short five-on-three to carry over to the second. The shots on goal were 13-10 for the Canadiens although the high-end scoring chances were few and far between which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise from two offensively-challenged teams.
Montreal did well to kill off the two-man advantage as the Islanders couldn’t even get set up but once the five-on-four started, New York started to move the puck around well. Eventually, Josh Bailey’s shot from the faceoff dot caught a piece of Parise and Hammond’s pad, bouncing right to Kyle Palmieri who deposited it into the open net.
Just past the six-minute mark, the Isles had a chance to take the lead as a fortuitous bounce for them saw Brock Nelson get the puck in the slot without any pressure but Hammond was able to make the save. Two minutes later, Mathew Barzal set up Anthony Beauvillier for a one-timer that Hammond turned aside as well.
The Canadiens only managed two shots in the first half of the period but the third was a dangerous one from Nick Suzuki on the rush. Sorokin made the save and New York came back the other way. Seconds later, Kale Clague tripped up Nelson, sending the Isles back to the power play. Montreal did well to keep them to the perimeter and they were able to kill it off.
Not long after the power play, the Canadiens looked to have a two-on-one with Artturi Lehkonen rushing up the left side. However, Aho tripped him up, sending the Habs to the power play. The top unit came close on a back door play as Suzuki sent a pass cross-crease for Caufield but he wasn’t able to get the shot on net. Jake Evans had a couple of good looks just after the advantage came to an end.
It looked like it was going to stay tied for the rest of the period but Montreal got some good fortune. Adam Pelech failed to get the puck deep on a dump-in, allowing Caufield to counter with speed. He sent it to Suzuki on the right side who went cross-ice with a pass for Anderson. Anderson had a bad angle but caught Sorokin out of position just slightly, sneaking one high short-side to give the Habs the lead heading to the room. The shots on goal were 12-5 for the Islanders.
New York nearly tied it up on the opening shift of the third as the puck squirted loose to Pageau in the slot but his shot caught the post. It took another four minutes for Montreal to get their first good chance of the period when Brendan Gallagher took a hit to get the time to set up Dauphin who skated in but Sorokin got a blocker on it. Ryan Poehling had a good look on the next shift but missed the net.
Montreal started to up the pressure as a few minutes later, Anderson knocked down a clearing attempt and fed Caufield who was open in the slot but Sorokin got a pad on his shot. A minute later, Dauphin was sent in alone. His shot just missed and although he was taken down, no arm went up. The Islanders came back firing but fortunately for the Canadiens, their shots missed the net.
Eventually, the Isles were able to tie it up. Nelson got in behind coverage and was able to take advantage of a well-placed deflection to skate in alone on Hammond and got one past the pads to tie it up with just under three minutes to go. They nearly got the winner in the dying seconds but Beauvillier just missed on a centring feed with 30 seconds to go. Shots were 9-6 for New York as the game went to overtime.
For two teams that can’t score and don’t play all that aggressively offensively, it was a pretty good overtime. Pageau had the first chance, opting to shoot on a two-on-one with Parise but Hammond made the stop 40 seconds in. 30 seconds later, Evans was set up by Pitlick but Sorokin came up big. Chiarot had a chance on a one-timer that Sorokin got a pad on. All in all, the shots were 3-1 in an extra session that didn’t have a single whistle.
Beauvillier opened up the scoring in the shootout with a deke that beat Hammond but Caufield outwaited Sorokin to beat him five-hole to tie it up. Barzal caught the post while Pitlick pulled off a deke similar to Beauvillier to stuff it past Sorokin to give the Habs the lead. Nelson needed to score but couldn’t as the Habs collected their second straight win for the first time this season.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Andrew Hammond – It’s hard not to pick him. It was his first NHL start in over 1,400 days and he looked sharp after a shaky few moments early on. All Montreal wants from him is a bit of stability to keep games close and ideally competitive. Performances like that were exactly what they were looking for as he picked up his first NHL victory since suiting up for Colorado in the playoffs more than 1,400 days ago.
Stats: 30 saves on 32 shots, 1.85 GAA, .938 SV%
(On a side note, Hammond won’t be the only goalie making his first NHL start in over 1,400 days today as J-F Berube of the Blue Jackets is also getting that opportunity tonight against Buffalo. I have to think that’s a first in NHL history…)
2nd Star: Josh Anderson – I thought he was fairly quiet in his first game on Montreal’s new top line but he made more of an impact on this one. The higher level of physicality probably didn’t hurt and he was comfortable doing the dirty work. Of course, he gets the nod here not for that but for a well-placed shot from just above the goal line that gave Montreal the lead late in the second period.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 PIMS, 2 shots, 2 hits, 2 takeaways, 21:38 TOI
3rd Star: Cole Caufield – He didn’t score but he did just about everything but put one past Sorokin. It’s amazing what some confidence is worth to him as he looks like a much more dynamic player than he was even two weeks ago. He’s being rewarded for his efforts with way more ice time than he was receiving before.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 3 shots, 19:38 TOI
Honourable Mention: Jeff Petry – This spot easily could have gone to Michael Pezzetta who had a strong showing but I wanted to highlight Petry’s gradual improvement. Each game under St. Louis, he has gotten a little better. He’s still not at the level he was last year but this is a nice step in the right direction both from a confidence standpoint and when it comes to his trade value.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 2 shots, 4 hits, 2 blocks, 23:27 TOI