After losing two straight on the road, the Habs returned home on Monday night to take on Pittsburgh. They found themselves down two in the third period but completed the comeback, eventually securing a 3-2 overtime victory.
Martin St. Louis opted not to make any lineup changes from Saturday’s loss in Washington. Jake Allen was originally expected to make the start but with the pending birth of his child, he was unavailable so Sam Montembeault got the nod with Cayden Primeau coming up from Laval to back him up; Corey Schueneman was sent down to make room on the roster. However, while there were no new faces in the lineup, the forward lines were mixed around and were as follows:
Caufield – Suzuki – Monahan
Dadonov – Dvorak – Gallagher
Drouin – Dach – Anderson
Slafkovsky – Evans – Hoffman
It looked like things would get off to a tough start for the Canadiens as just before the two-minute mark, Kasperi Kapanen sent a pass out front that eventually found its way to Danton Heinen and the winger quickly beat Montembeault to open up the scoring. Or so it seemed. After review, the puck didn’t entirely cross the line after hitting the crossbar so the goal was taken off the board.
That seemed to give Montreal some skating legs. A couple of minutes later, Josh Anderson got a step on Pierre-Olivier Joseph but his backhander went wide. Four minutes after that, Kris Letang turned it over in his own zone right to Cole Caufield but the winger had to wait to get his shot off which allowed Casey DeSmith to be in position to cover it up.
As the lines cycled through, the third and fourth trios then put strong shifts together, giving the Habs some extended zone time with Pittsburgh’s players being caught out there for nearly 2:30. However, they couldn’t score.
That seemed to wake up Pittsburgh as they were much stronger in the final minutes of the period. Montembeault was forced to make a stretching pad stop on a redirect in close from Bryan Rust to keep the game scoreless heading to the room. Montreal held an 11-6 shot advantage in the frame but only managed two shots in the final half of the period.
The Canadiens had a good chance develop from nothing early in the second. Christian Dvorak sent the puck toward the net and it wound up right on Brendan Gallagher’s stick. As we know, he doesn’t hesitate to shoot from odd angles and he nearly squeaked it past DeSmith but it just stayed out.
Two minutes later, Dvorak made a good defensive play in his own end but then wasn’t able to clear the puck successfully. The puck eventually got to Marcus Pettersson who sent a cross-ice feed for Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was skating backwards but still got a one-timer off that was able to fool and beat Montembeault to open up the scoring.
A minute later, Kirby Dach was sent off for hooking Kasperi Kapanen, sending the Penguins to their first power play of the game. Give Montreal credit here, they had an excellent penalty kill, shutting down one of the top power plays in the early going this season. Not long after it expired, Ryan Poehling went in on a two-on-one with Jason Zucker but Montembeault was able to swallow up Zucker’s shot.
However, on the next shift, the Canadiens lost the draw and things went downhill from there. Rust threw the puck toward the net with a weak shot that hit Montembeault’s stick and went right to the slot. Malkin was there to fire it home while Nick Suzuki wasn’t where he was supposed to be in coverage. It was bad execution off a lost draw, bad rebound control, and bad coverage on the goal.
A little past the midway mark, the Dach trio had some good looks to try to get Montreal on the board while DeSmith made a big glove stop on a Gallagher shot from the slot a few minutes after that but the Habs couldn’t break the goose egg.
Arber Xhekaj was called for interfering with Kapanen with a little over three minutes left although the call wasn’t a great one and Jonathan Drouin deserves some blame for sending a pass backwards that put Xhekaj into that position. However, the Canadiens once again had a strong penalty kill and as it was ending, Jeff Petry tripped up Suzuki, sending the Habs to the power play with a minute to go. They couldn’t do anything with the first half though and went to the room down by two. Shots on goal in the period were 15-13 for Pittsburgh.
The Habs couldn’t do anything with the carryover power play to start the third. However, just as that penalty ended, Suzuki skated in on the left went and beat DeSmith with a quick shot. It didn’t go into the net, mind you, but the captain skated around the net and tapped it in to get the Canadiens on the board. Kaiden Guhle picked up his first career NHL point with an assist on the play. For the rest of the first half of the frame, the two sides traded a couple of chances but nothing special.
Just past the midway point, Xhekaj high-sticked Jason Zucker, sending the Penguins back to the power play. Once again, the penalty kill was on its game. Jake Evans went in on a two-on-one with Evgenii Dadonov, kept it, and shot but DeSmith stopped it. On the next shift, Sean Monahan received a good pass from Dvorak on a two-on-one but again, DeSmith was there. On the shift after that, Dadonov drew an interference penalty on Petry, ending the power play early. Montreal did nothing with their power play, however.
Following a decent chance from Anderson off a feed from Dach behind the net, St. Louis called timeout and drew up a play. Montreal won the faceoff, giving them a chance to execute it and it worked to perfection. Suzuki won the draw and the puck came to Drouin on the sideboards. He threaded a perfect cross-ice feed to Caufield who fired it home with a little over two minutes left to tie it up and force overtime. Shots on goal in the third were 11-6 for the Habs.
In the extra session, Monahan had a chance early but couldn’t get the shot off on a partial break as he was tied up. Malkin came back the other way and got a good shot off on Montembeault’s short-side but the netminder made the stop.
Two minutes later, Petry took his third penalty of the game, this time for a slash on Jordan Harris, giving Montreal another man advantage. Caufield hit the crossbar early and then the Canadiens passed the puck around for a long time. It eventually found its way to Monahan who skated around, looked for the opening, and then fired a quick pass to Dach who was right at the crease to tap in the winner, his first as a Hab to complete the comeback.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Kaiden Guhle – No, he didn’t score in this one but that’s about the only thing he didn’t do. He had a hand in both goals in the third, played a sound defensive game, and used his speed well. He played like a seasoned veteran in this one, not someone playing in his fourth NHL game. There’s a strong case to be made that he’s Montreal’s top defenceman right now which is high praise for the 20-year-old.
Stats: 2 assists, +1 rating, 3 shots, 3 hits, 3 takeaways, 24:43 TOI
2nd Star: Nick Suzuki – It took a bit of time for the captain to make his mark but in the second half of the game, he was noticeable in a big way whenever he was on the ice. He got the Habs on the board, won the draw that led to the tying goal, and was on for the winner as well while leading the team in shots and faceoff percentage. A solid game even after considering the poor coverage on Pittsburgh’s second goal.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 8 shots, 2 hits, 10/15 faceoffs, 21:51 TOI
3rd Star: Samuel Montembeault – Truth be told, I didn’t like the goals he allowed or even the one that hit the crossbar. But he gets the nod here for the other stops he made. There were some big ones and some very timely ones to keep the game close. From a backup goalie against a good team, that’s all they can realistically hope for.
Stats: 2 GA on 28 shots, 1.91 GAA, .929 SV%
Honourable Mention: Kirby Dach – He didn’t play a lot but when his line was in the offensive zone, they were noticeable; he and Anderson did well on the cycle game at times. Of course, that’s not why he’s here. He got the winner in overtime and that alone is enough to get him this spot.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 2 PIMS, 2 shots, 0/5 faceoffs, 12:29 TOI