After falling just short on their spectacular come from behind attempt on Saturday night, the Habs were back in action Sunday as they travelled to Philadelphia to face the Flyers. The Flyers had also played on Saturday, so fatigue was sure to be a factor in this game. This time, Montreal completed their comeback as they were able to top the Flyers in an overtime thriller, skating away with a 4-3 victory.
The night started off poorly for the Canadiens as Artturi Lehkonen got hurt during the warmup and was replaced by Laurent Dauphin. All other lines were kept together, while the blueline was altered as the preservation of Joel Edmundson sidelined him in favour of Corey Schueneman. This meant Alexander Romanov was paired with Ben Chiarot while Brett Kulak returned to his pairing with Jeff Petry. Schueneman was paired with Chris Wideman. Samuel Montembeault was back in net, facing Carter Hart.
The first period certainly didn’t start the way the Habs wanted as Mike Hoffman was called for slashing only 20 seconds in. Philadelphia’s man advantage immediately went to work logging four shots against Montembeault as the Habs survived the early onslaught.
Montreal fought back to bring the shot clock a little bit before Jeff Petry carried the puck into the Flyers zone and then had a brain cramp. Petry fired the puck toward the slot to no one. This left the rest of the players on the ice thinking offence as the Flyers grabbed the errant pass and left their own zone. The four on two sequence left too much ice for the defenders and Montembeault to cover as Kevin Hayes was able to score at the seven-minute mark.
The goal whipped the Canadiens back into action as they kicked off the second half of the period fighting hard to get back into the contest. The Flyers were a tenacious team in this period though and the Habs had to fight to even find the space to try to attack the middle of the ice.
Justin Braun was called for holding Armia and the Habs had their turn on the power play. While the sequence was far less convincing than the early chance for the Flyers, a few plays where Brendan Gallagher simply outworked his check allowed Armia to find himself with a good chance that was stopped by Hart. Montreal ended the period with an 11-9 shot advantage albeit an unconvincing shot advantage.
Gallagher started the second period with the same work ethic as he had in the first and was immediately rewarded for it as Claude Giroux was called for tripping Gallagher 1:09 in. Montreal made the Flyers pay as some nifty puck possession by Cole Caufield and Wideman finally left Suzuki all alone on the other side as he accepted a pass and scored from his favourite spot with Ryan Poehling screening Hart.
But at the seven-minute mark, Giroux made up for his penalty as he beat Petry in the corner and then beat Petry to the front of the net where he was able to pounce on a rebound and beat Montembeault.
The coaching staff swapped centres as Rem Pitlick and Suzuki changed wingers. It immediately paid dividends as Suzuki scored a minute later. Suzuki beat Rasmus Ristolainen to a puck, then took advantage of seeing both his veteran linemates crashing the crease. He put the puck on net and then beat Ristolainen to the front of the net where he picked up his own rebound before beating Hart.
Both teams then exchanged some offensive pressure before Sanheim was sent to the box for hooking. Montreal’s power play was disastrous before Poehling was smashed with a huge hit from Braun. Poehling left the game and did not return. With 1:19 to play, Derick Brassard was called for tripping on a play that could have also been called embellishment on Hoffman.
The Habs started the third with a short advantage, but they were unable to convert. Caufield and Pitlick created a few scoring chances as the road side remained the better team early in the third period.
2:41 in, the Flyers got their first chance of the period as Schueneman and Dauphin covered the same player on the rush which left Wideman on a mini 2-on-1. He failed as Cam Atkinson scored for a third lead for the Flyers. The Habs pushed and mostly controlled the pace of play, but the Flyers were protecting their lead.
The second half of the third period saw more of the same as Philadelphia sat in their shell protecting their lead and the Canadiens tried to even the score. In all honesty, for much of the period, it looked like the Habs of old. They weren’t willing to fight to get to the hard areas on the ice, they weren’t willing to take a hit to make a play; they were accepting defeat. Montembeault headed to the bench with 1:20 to play.
20 seconds later, Wideman completed a completely bone-headed interference on Joel Farabee that should have ended the game. Instead, the NHL’s officiating incompetence came under full display which forced hockey karma to step in and change the outcome of this game. Despite Wideman’s blatant interference, the officials did not call the play. Farabee responded by flopping on the ice as though he’d been shot. This prompted the officials to blow the play dead for no reason. The officials then called a five-minute interference major. This made less sense than the initial missed call, but it allowed the officials to get to the replay. The replay confirmed the interference minor, but the officials missed that they had been had by the Farabee flop and sent the Flyers to the power play.
As play resumed, Petry attacked the Flyers zone despite the shorthanded situation. He got all the way in the corner, won his battle, and saw the puck make its way to Chiarot who was also deep in the offensive zone. With all the Flyers standing and watching, Chiarot sent a brilliant pass across to Pitlick to tie the game with 43 seconds to play.
The Canadiens then survived the remaining 40 seconds of Philadelphia’s power play, before doing the same for a minute at 4-on-3 to start the overtime.
A minute later, Pitlick was at it again. Hoffman was sent in only to see his stick snap while trying to shoot. As he exited the ice, Pitlick backchecked like a rabid dog and stole the puck. He then hit Caufield with a pass as the youngster had replaced Hoffman. Caufield skated in and wound up with a massive slap shot that beat Hart to win the game for the Canadiens.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Nick Suzuki
It was another one of those games where Suzuki just appeared to be a level above everyone on the ice. Suzuki found himself with a new set of wingers and never missed a beat. No offense to Caufield, Anderson, or Pitlick, but it was quite evident when Nick was no longer on the ice with Caufield and Anderson. Suzuki continued scoring with new wingers and continued to make plays all over the ice. As much as Caufield has been unlocked under the new coach, Suzuki looks as much like the 1C this fan base has been craving for years.
Stats: 2 goals, +2, 4 shots, 23:27 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Rem Pitlick
What a waiver pickup this is turning out to be. Might even be better than Byron. Pitlick might not be Suzuki, but he plays with full effort, almost like a young Gallagher. He made it count on this night as he sent the game to overtime before having his hard work on full display on Caufield’s game-winner. What an interesting player.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 21:07 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Cole Caufield
Caufield is the game-breaker that Montreal has wanted to see for years. It was an overall pretty average night for Caufield, but when it mattered most, all he needed was one chance and boy did he take advantage of it to earn his team the win and once again be all over the highlight reel with his huge smile and the credit for the game-winner.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 3 shots, 18:29 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Brendan Gallagher
Two teams who are playing out terrible seasons faceoff on the back end of a back-to-back and the play was sloppy if we keep it above board. In a game such as this, players with an over-abundance of heart and determination stand out and this was no exception as Atkinson and Gallagher offered standout performances for their respective teams. Gallagher may never get back to being a 30-goal stud, he may never be worth the contract that will ultimately spell his doom in Montreal. But never let that be mistaken for the heart that this player displays on a nightly basis. That guy is still there and might be even more so next season after a full, regular offseason of getting ready for the grind of another campaign.
Stats: +1, 4 shots, 16:24 T.O.I.