The 2015 postseason kicked off on Wednesday night and Game 1 of the Montreal-Ottawa series lived up to the hype. It was a wild and wacky game but at the end of the day, the Habs have the early lead after a 4-3 win.
Max Pacioretty wasn’t available for the Canadiens so Brian Flynn got to remain in the lineup for one more game. At the beginning of the night that may not have meant much but boy, did that wind up making a difference. There was one lineup change from the regular season finale as Tom Gilbert returned to the lineup in place of Greg Pateryn.
Montreal had the early edge as the game began but they weren’t able to get much through to the net. This was in large part due to the fact that both teams were going out of their way to finish every single check which didn’t leave much room out there. As the period continued though, the Sens picked up their play and eventually were rewarded for it, albeit in the strangest of ways. A simple dump-in behind the net bounced off P.K. Subban to Andrei Markov who accidentally redirected it past Carey Price for an own goal to open the scoring; that tally would hold up as the lone one of the frame.
To say the second period was eventful would be quite the understatement. Torrey Mitchell scored his first as a Hab to square things up and just fifteen seconds later, Tomas Plekanec snapped one past Andrew Hammond to give Montreal the lead. It didn’t last long.
Seconds after the goal, Lars Eller took a high sticking penalty, giving Ottawa a power play. Seconds after that, Subban hacked Mark Stone sending both players to the dressing room; Stone for repairs and Subban for an early trip to the showers after he received a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play. Stone did return to the game shortly thereafter but played only sparingly the rest of the way.
Kyle Turris scored on the ensuing man advantage to tie it back up. As Subban’s penalty was a major, the power play continued and both teams continued their frenetic scoring pace. Lars Eller restored the lead on a shorthanded breakaway but that lead didn’t last long either as Mika Zibanejad beat Price less than a minute later to tie it at three apiece.
For the last while, many have speculated about who some of the unsung heroes could be come playoff time. I don’t think anyone mentioned Flynn but lo and behold, he was the difference maker in this game. Already with two assists to his credit, Flynn picked up his first goal as a Hab before the second period ended, giving the Canadiens the lead heading into the final frame. The shots on goal in the second were a ridiculous 19-17 in favour of Montreal.
The third period resembled more of what we’ve come to expect from the Habs. While there were still a few chances, there weren’t anywhere near as many as there were in the second, nor were most of them as dangerous. Montreal made some noise with their lone man advantage of the night but weren’t able to get the insurance marker, making for a nail biter of a finish. In the end though, the Canadiens held on to take the early lead in the series.
Price picked up the win, turning aside 30 of 33 Ottawa shots while Hammond made 35 saves in the loss. Montreal was 0/1 with the man advantage while the Sens were 2/5.
HW 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Brian Flynn – He wound up playing the least of any Hab but wound up having arguably the biggest impact on the game. He had the game winner and used his speed well to set up two other goals. This was by far his best game in a Montreal uniform.
Stats: 1 goal, 2 assists, +3 rating, 2 shots, 10:17 TOI
2nd Star: Torrey Mitchell – The other Buffalo addition also had a fine outing. He was strong at the faceoff dot and often was the catalyst of the fourth line. His goal also was a big momentum shifter that really got the Habs back into it.
Stats: 1 goal, +2 rating, 2 shots, 10/15 faceoffs, 13:15 TOI
3rd Star: Jeff Petry – With Subban out and Markov having an uncharacteristically terrible game, Petry was called upon to take on a bigger workload and he handled it perfectly. He was a threat at both ends of the rink and played like a legitimate top pairing blueliner. Quite the impressive postseason debut for sure.
Stats: 0 points, +1 rating, 6 shots (12 attempts), 3 hits, 2 giveaways, 2 takeaways, 24:39 TOI
Honourable Mention: Alexei Emelin – Not surprisingly, he too was asked to shoulder more of the load and he too responded with one of his best games of the year. Emelin made a key play to clear the puck off the post in the third with Ottawa pressing for the equalizer while being a physical threat all night long.
Stats: 0 points, even rating, 1 shot, 6 hits, 3 blocks, 23:00 TOI
Stat of the Night: Mitchell’s goal was only his fourth career postseason tally in 61 games.
Ottawa coach Dave Cameron had some interesting postgame comments regarding Subban’s slash:
“You either do one of two things. I think it’s an easy solution — you either suspend him, or when one of their best players gets slashed just give us five.”
However, the word after the game is that Subban is not expected to face any supplementary discipline. Cameron noted that Stone isn’t 100% but wouldn’t rule the forward in or out of the lineup for Game 2.
The series will resume on Friday night at the Bell Centre. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM EST.