After picking up a win on Thursday in Buffalo, the Habs looked to make it two wins in a row on Saturday in St. Louis. The offence came to life, scoring six times in the second half, allowing Montreal to skate away with a 7-4 victory.
Martin St. Louis opted to make several changes to his lineup from the game against the Sabres. Jake Allen got the start in goal while Joel Armia was activated off IR making his season debut. On top of that, Juraj Slafkovsky returned from his wrist injury while Michael Pezzetta suited up for the first time this season. Jonathan Drouin, Evgenii Dadonov, and Rem Pitlick all sat and for good measure, three of the four forward lines had different looks. The team lined up as follows:
Caufield – Suzuki – Dach
Anderson – Dvorak – Gallagher
Hoffman – Monahan – Armia
Pezzetta – Evans – Slafkovsky
Guhle – Savard
Harris – Kovacevic
Xhekaj – Wideman
The Canadiens got the first good chance of the game a minute and a half in when Christian Dvorak set up Brendan Gallagher with a pass that set up a tap-in opportunity. Unfortunately for the Habs, it went just wide. That was pretty much it for chances for the road side in the early going.
Just past the seven-minute mark, Pezzetta lost the puck in the offensive zone, sending St. Louis in on a two-on-one. Tyler Pitlick fed Noel Acciari who sent a return feed back but Pitlick’s shot missed the net. However, before the next whistle, St. Louis regained the offensive zone and Brayden Schenn was able to squeak a shot through Allen to open up the scoring.
For most of the period, the Habs couldn’t generate much with their few shots being contained to the outside. However, they caught a break with five minutes to go as Nick Leddy flubbed a clearing attempt. Jonathan Kovacevic picked it off to retain possession and the puck eventually worked its way to the point for Jordan Harris. He fired one towards the net that caught a piece of Nick Suzuki with the redirect going off the post and in to tie it up.
Just over a minute later, Montreal had a chance to take the lead as Sean Monahan made a good move to out wait Niko Mikkola on the rush and sent a pass for Mike Hoffman but his redirect went wide. The Canadiens got a late power play when Leddy held Brendan Gallagher but they weren’t even able to get set up in the 30-second advantage. The period came to an end tied with St. Louis holding a 10-6 shot advantage.
Caufield had a decent look early in the carryover power play but that’s as close as Montreal got to scoring with their advantage.
Over the first five minutes of the period, neither team got a shot on goal. That changed seconds later as Pitlick got around Arber Xhekaj to the slot to put a shot on Allen and while the former Blue made the stop, Acciari was right there to pounce on the rebound to make it 2-1.
Caufield had another good chance a couple of minutes later when he took away the puck behind the St. Louis goal and circled out front but his shot drew iron. Josh Anderson had a chance two minutes after that off a good feed from Gallagher but his shot missed. To make matters work, he slashed Vladimir Tarasenko ten seconds later, sending the Blues to the power play.
It was a short-lived advantage as St. Louis won the draw and worked the puck to Faulk at the point. He sent a pass to Jordan Kyrou inside the left faceoff circle and his shot got through a screen and past Allen to double their lead. Less than a minute later, they nearly had another one as Tarasenko’s centring pass hit Johnathan Kovacevic’s skate and went toward the net but Allen was able to pounce on that one in time.
That proved to be crucial as on the next shift, Nick Suzuki tried to send a shot toward the net. It missed and went off the boards, bouncing right to Caufield. He quickly got to the front of the net and slipped it home to make it a one-goal game again.
21 seconds later, Ivan Barbashev hooked Armia, giving the Canadiens their second power play of the night. Sean Monahan had a good chance on the first wave but that was all they could do. However, the new-look second trio (thanks to the scratches of Drouin and Dadonov) got the job done as Slafkovsky took a feed from Chris Wideman and fired one home from the top of the right faceoff circle.
Barely a minute later, Montreal got another advantage when Colton Parayko tripped Suzuki. The first unit had some rare sustained pressure and it paid off as Suzuki was able to slide over a cross-ice feed to Caufield who lifted it up and over a sprawling Binnington for his second of the night and Montreal’s first lead.
With a little less than three minutes left, Mike Hoffman tripped Pavel Buchnevich, sending the Blues back to the power play. However, while St. Louis had plenty of zone time, they couldn’t get the equalizer, allowing Montreal to head to the room up a goal after scoring three times in the second half of the frame. The shots in the period were 11-9.
Things got off to a great start in the third for the Canadiens. Faulk had another brutal turnover, this time to Dvorak. He tried to send it out front for Kirby Dach but the pass went off Nick Leddy and in to double the lead.
40 seconds later, they got another one. Jordan Harris sent a pass along the blueline to Anderson who wristed one towards Binnington. Dvorak got his stick on it and deflected it in. After a review for a high stick, it was confirmed that the stick was below the crossbar to make it 6-3.
A minute later, Torey Krug and Suzuki were called for offsetting minors although Suzuki’s call was a bit iffy. Seconds later, a defensive zone giveaway from Kaiden Guhle eventually led to Tarasenko getting in behind David Savard and he went five-hole on his former teammate. Seconds after that, Leddy got around Savard on the rush but Allen made the stop.
Just before the seven-minute mark, Nathan Walker had a glorious opportunity to make it a one-goal game. He forced a turnover and moments later, he was set up with a wide-open net but fired it wide.
A minute later, Kyrou and Thomas both missed good chances as part of a stretch of 8:05 without a whistle, one that featured several missed chances and few shots on goal. Montreal’s best in that segment was a three-on-one that saw Slafkovsky’s centring feed being broken up by Leddy.
St. Louis pulled Binnington with three minutes and while they had plenty of zone time, they couldn’t get anything through. Eventually, Dvorak got a hold of the puck deep in the defensive zone and was able to fire one home for his first career hat-trick. Shots in the final frame were 11-8 for the Blues but Montreal’s three goals on those eight shots proved to be the difference.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Christian Dvorak – It’s kind of hard not to pick him when he gets the game-winner as part of a third period hat-trick. That said, he played well in the first two periods and was quite strong at the faceoff dot. He has had a decent season despite the lack of production so it was nice to see him finally get rewarded for his efforts.
Stats: 3 goals, +2 rating, 3 shots, 2 takeaways, 2 blocks, 11/15 faceoffs, 18:12 TOI
2nd Star: Cole Caufield – He was the Hab that got the team going in the second period and it wasn’t even from his goals. His early scoring chances seemed to help drag them back into the game and eventually, he picked up a pair of goals and things got much better from there.
Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 shots, 15:17 TOI
3rd Star: Nick Suzuki – When Caufield scores, Suzuki usually has a hand in it and this game was no exception. He got the Habs on the board and then had the primary assists on Caufield’s markers. It wasn’t his best game but having a hand in three important goals has to count for something.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 1 shot, 9/16 faceoffs, 17:43 TOI
Honourable Mention: Johnathan Kovacevic – While his name rarely made it into the game report, some of Montreal’s chances came from Kovacevic making a good play to hold the line, intercepting a pass, or making a good first pass to start the attack. That’s called doing the little things right and he did a lot of little things right in this one.
Stats: 0 points, +3 rating, 1 shot, 5 takeaways, 17:53 TOI