The Canadiens were back in action Thursday night as they travelled to Raleigh to face the Hurricanes who were without former Hab Jesperi Kotkaniemi who was injured but did feature former Hab Max Domi who traded at the deadline. This mattered little as Carolina absolutely thumped Montreal all night long on their way to what appeared like an easy 4-0 win.
Joel Armia was the latest to join Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield on the top line which meant Mike Hoffman was dropped to the third line alongside Jake Evans and Rem Pitlick. The second line featured Paul Byron, Christian Dvorak, and Josh Anderson, while Tyler Pitlick returned to the lineup playing with Laurent Dauphin and Jesse Ylonen on the fourth. The blue line remained the same with Alexander Romanov and David Savard as the top pair. Joel Edmundson paired with Justin Barron, while Corey Schueneman and Chris Wideman rounded out the group. Jake Allen was the starter as he faced Frederik Andersen.
Jake Allen didn’t have to be too flashy in his stops to start the game, but he had to be solid as the Hurricanes peppered the Habs early as they led 9-2 in shots and 1-0 in goals after ten minutes. The very first shift saw a bad pinch by Savard turn into a 2-on-1 that Romanov played well. Then Dauphin delivered an obvious cross-check at 3:43. The advantage lasted all of four seconds as Sebastian Aho won the draw, Anthony DeAngelo went across the blue line and Teuvo Teravainen slap-passed to the high slot where Aho redirected to the top corner for an early lead.
The Canadiens found their composure in the second half of the period. Brett Pesce got away with a blatant trip on Byron, and then could have also been called on a high-stick on Suzuki. Evans was then stopped on a partial break before a 2-on-1 missed when Evans missed his pass to Wideman. Anderson then used his speed to get a breakaway of his own but missed the net.
Montreal was undisciplined to end the period and it cost them. Byron committed a blind pass behind his own net right to Martin Necas who almost fooled Allen on a wraparound. Then Andrei Svechnikov made it 2-0 with twelve seconds to play. Savard hit Svechnikov hard at the blue line and was retaliated on with a brutal slash to the hand. Savard then lost his cool and followed the Hurricane to the front of the net repeating cross-checks instead of tying up his stick. The result was Svechnikov accepting the cross-checks and redirecting a pass by Allen.
If one could say that the Habs were at least alert defensively in the first, that aspect left them in the second period as Allen was left completely on his own for the entirety of this period. 3:43 in, the Canes beat Allen, but the puck trickled wide. Armia missed clearing the zone as the puck was quickly sent from Aho to Teravainen in the slot who quickly made it 3-0. Carolina kept coming as the shots by the midway point of the period were 10-3.
The officials decided to get in on the fun as the Canadiens spent the second half of the period parading to the penalty box. The first was Edmundson as he did complete a hook that prevented Jesper Fast from getting to a rebound in front of the net. Allen made two awesome saves to kick off the shorthanded sequence before the Habs found their footing.
With seven seconds left in the Edmundson minor, Suzuki was called for cross-checking on a rather weak call. After the Habs failed to clear the zone twice, Allen took a shot to the head which dislodged his helmet. When the officials did not whistle the play down, he ripped off his mask. Instead of understanding their error, the officials compounded it by assessing a delay of game penalty to the netminder. Montreal was able to kill all of the penalties including the 53 seconds of 5-on-3. They escaped the period without further damage, but the shots were 41-18 after two periods, 25-9 in the second period alone.
Three minutes into the third period, Derek Stepan took a tripping call that sent the Habs to their first power play of the night. The first unit was completely disorganized as Suzuki was getting visibly frustrated at being the only player on the ice capable of handling the puck.
Montreal would get a second advantage with 13 minutes to play when the Hurricanes were caught with too many players on the ice. Once again, the top unit could get nothing organized while the second unit was at least able to get control in the offensive zone.
The second half of the period kicked off with yet another Carolina penalty as Vicent Trocheck tripped Caufield. The second unit started, and it was their turn to get nothing. When the first unit came out, a good zone entry by Caufield gave Anderson a chance in the slot and he beat Andersen only to hit the post.
With the Habs in the offensive zone and 4:42 to play, Allen was brought to the bench and five forwards were on the ice. Play remained on the outside for the most part, so the Hurricanes were able to keep the Habs at bay until Svechnikov was able to put one into the empty net and win the game 4-0.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jake Allen
Left to his own devices for much of the night, Allen was mostly Montreal’s only bright spot in this contest. While he must be happy with his game time, he must now be getting a little anxious to get some help in the defensive zone.
Stats: 40 saves, 43 shots, .930 save %, 3.18 GAA, 56:32 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jake Evans
In a game where nothing was working for the Habs, effort becomes evident, and Evans was one of the few players that put in an honest effort on this night and not just try to come alive in the third period.
Stats: -1, 3 shots, 16:19 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Rem Pitlick
Read the paragraph above about Evans as it also applies to Pitlick.
Stats: 4 shots, 19:36 T.O.I.