Wednesday night’s contest for the Habs was the last road game of the season as their year wraps up on Friday night. This final road contest was played at Madison Square Garden against a Rangers team that also had little to play for as they’d already secured second place in the Metro Division and guaranteed themselves home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It, therefore, came as no surprise that the Rangers opted to sit all of Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba, and Igor Shesterkin (while Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp were out with injury). This meant yet another backup battle as Alexandar Georgiev faced Samuel Montembeault.
The Habs dressed a usual lineup as Nick Suzuki centred Cole Caufield and Mike Hoffman, Jake Evans was between Rem Pitlick and Brendan Gallagher, Christian Dvorak played with Tyler Pitlick and Josh Anderson, while Ryan Poehling was with Laurent Dauphin and Michael Pezzetta. On the blue line, Alexander Romanov was paired with David Savard while Joel Edmundson remained with Jeff Petry. William Lagesson remained with Jordan Harris on the third pair.
A usual lineup for the Habs facing a ‘B’ roster for the Rangers, but one is preparing for the postseason while the others have started talking to media about playing in the World Championships while sitting in dead last of the league. It made for a very sloppy game, but one that got interesting in the third period as the Canadiens were finally able to win their first game after ten losses, failing to automatically secure the 32nd spot in the league in the process.
However, a three-goal comeback from Arizona forced their game to overtime where they beat Dallas, meaning that the Habs will have the top odds in the draft lottery last month.
The game started with tentative hockey as only two shots were released in the first five minutes of play. The first excellent scoring chance of the game came off the stick of Rem Pitlick as Gallagher won his battle for the puck in the offensive zone and found a forgotten Pitlick whose one-timer was stopped by Georgiev.
With 10:35 to play in the period, Harris got his stick up and took the game’s first penalty. The Rangers got some zone time but never really threatened Montembeault.
The second half of the period saw the expected sloppiness of such a game appear as neither team could really complete a clean pass and neutral zone play once again ensued. Play picked up in the final three minutes as the Rangers started hitting; K’Andre Miller completed an excellent back-check on Rem Pitlick before Evans redirected a puck toward Montembeault that forced a good save.
With 1:15 left in the period, Pezzetta won a race to a loose puck and directed the puck to the front of the net where Poehling one-timed it to beat Georgiev and open the scoring.
The second period started with the Canadiens skating and generating some momentum with Caufield getting the best chance early in the period. The Rangers finally stepped up and responded to the opening sequence from the Habs as Zac Jones attacked the net and forced Montembeault to make a sprawling save, easily his best to this point in the game.
With 15:46 left in the period and a delayed penalty against Petry, the puck found its way to the slot where Ryan Reaves sent a weak shot toward the net that hit Dvorak to beat Montembeault to even the score.
Suzuki then accidentally ran through Frank Vatrano and was called for interference. However, six seconds later, Julien Gauthier was called for interference on Petry in front of the net. The 4-on-4 sequence favoured the Rangers, but no good scoring chances came from the sequence.
The second half of the period saw New York really extend their shot lead as the period ended with a 20-10 shot advantage. Montembeault made a few good stops, but it was mostly two teams seemingly more interested in running out the clock than completing hockey plays.
A strong shift for Jake Evans turned the tide in the final moments of the period. After Rem Pitlick and Gallagher missed scoring chances created by Evans, Petry received a pass on the half boards and was patient with the puck. He put everyone to sleep before firing on net and beating Georgiev with only eight seconds to play as the Habs re-established their lead before the third.
The third period started with the Rangers attacking and the Canadiens battling to keep them to the perimeter. With 15:45 to play, the Habs were buzzing in the offensive zone. Hoffman fumbled the puck at the top of the zone before Caufield did the same thing in the neutral zone. Vatrano went the other way and fired a shot that beat Montembeault over the glove on a shot that was far from a strong goal allowed.
The Habs then controlled a segment of play as Poehling missed the best chance of the sequence after another strong forecheck by Pezzetta. With 11:38 to play, Edmundson was called for boarding.
The final ten minutes saw the Rangers squander their third man advantage of the night as they never threatened Montembeault on the sequence. This was followed by Suzuki finding Hoffman as they entered the zone. Hoffman did what he does best and released a rocket that fooled Georgiev to once again restore Montreal’s one-goal lead.
With 5:33 to play, Kevin Rooney was called for interference, but it was the Rangers who took advantage of the situation as Ryan Strome was able to sneak a relatively weak shot by Montembeault to even the score and create an interesting end to the game.
However, with 30 seconds to play in the game, Petry got yet another shot from a faceoff dot and once again went bar down on Georgiev as the Habs were able to skate away with their first win in ten games and end the road portion of their season on a winning note.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jeff Petry
Another strong game as he continues to solidify his trade value for the summer with a nice late-season push.
Stats: 2 goals, 3 shots, 21:52 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Ryan Poehling
He skated fast and made some good plays on forechecks all night long. Poehling took a lot of shots on net and scored a goal, a good response after being a healthy scratch.
Stats: 1 goal, 6 shots, 13:56 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Michael Pezzetta
He made that one impressive pass in the first period to set up Poehling’s goal. Pezzetta was rewarded for his efforts with a bit more playing as this was the most he has played in a game in more than a month.
Stats: 1 assist, 2 shots, 1 hit, 10:27 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Christian Dvorak
Dvorak is really quietly having an excellent return from injury. It will be interesting to see if he’s part of Montreal’s plans moving forward for next season.
Stats: 2 assists, 15:18 T.O.I.