On Monday night, the Habs went into Columbus looking to record two straight wins for the first time in two months. Unfortunately, the drought lives on as the Blue Jackets picked up a 5-2 victory.
Montreal didn’t make any lineup changes from their win on Saturday in Toronto. P.K. Subban was a game time decision with a virus but suited up for his 255th straight game.
Former Hab Rene Bourque was in the lineup for the Blue Jackets and despite playing just over two minutes in the opening period, he made quite a mark in his limited action.
The winger took the first penalty of the game, tripping Torrey Mitchell. Fedor Tyutin followed that up with a slash on Alex Galchenyuk, giving Montreal an early two man advantage. They took advantage of that, albeit in an odd fashion as a Brendan Gallagher pass looked to bounce off of both Gregory Campbell and Jack Johnson, who directed it past Joonas Korpisalo.
Montreal continued to press for the second goal but came no closer than a Lars Eller cross bar. Columbus found their skating legs in the back half of the period and took advantage of some subpar defending from the Canadiens as both Jeff Petry and Mark Barberio made soft clearing plays; the home side kept the puck in and before long, it was Cam Atkinson emerging from a sea of white sweaters to beat Condon to tie the game.
Back to Bourque. Late in the period, he took a shot from the point that looked to catch Mitchell near the foot, sending him to the ice. He left and did not return for the remainder of the period. The Jackets, buoyed by their equalizer, pushed to take the lead late but Condon held down the fort. Shots were 12-8 for Montreal.
The Habs had some good news and some bad news to start the second. Mitchell returned, however, Daniel Carr was declared done for the night with a lower body injury after a first period collision. Unlike Mitchell, Carr came back to play a couple of shifts after his hit.
The Jackets struck first in the middle stanza as Atkinson picked up his second of the night on a backhand shot that Condon would have wanted back. Fortunately for the Canadiens though, they too picked up a goal on a shot that Korpisalo most certainly should have stopped.
While setting up to make a line change, Subban blasted a long dump in attempt on goal from just past centre ice. Unlike virtually every other time he does that though, this one somehow went in to tie the game. And if you didn’t think that was weird enough, what transpired after was.
After a typically jubilant celebration from Subban, he went to skate by the bench to high five his teammates. Along the way, he crossed paths with Brandon Dubinsky who uttered a few words towards the Montreal defender. Whatever was said set off Subban as he gave a quick shot to Dubinsky, earning an unsportsmanlike penalty for his troubles. The Jackets weren’t able to capitalize on their man advantage; no further goals were scored sending the teams to the room all squared at two apiece. Shots in the second were 12-10 for the home side.
For a team that has struggled as much as the Habs, it would have been fair to expect that they’d come out with a big push in the third. They had a power play and generated little which was a sign of things to come.
As for Columbus, they didn’t have many shots but they buried the ones they did get. Brandon Saad landed the eventual winner after a blocked shot bounced right to him for a near open net goal. They doubled their advance with an empty netter on a simply awful shift from Tomas Fleischmann. And to top it off, Atkinson picked up the hat trick on a very pretty passing play to cap off the scoring.
Korpisalo made 32 saves in the win while Condon turned aside 20 of 24 shots in the loss. It’s not often that Montreal wins the special teams battle but they did in this game, going 1/3 with the man advantage while the Blue Jackets went 0/2.
HW Habs 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: P.K. Subban – Subban looked pretty good for a player who was a question to play pretty much all day. His goal was admittedly a fluky one while his penalty wasn’t smart but he was the one blueliner who was making things happen more often than not. Michel Therrien did well to manage his minutes given his illness which likely helped the cause as well.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, even rating, 2 PIMS, 3 shots, 1 hit, 1 block, 23:26 TOI
2nd Star: Brendan Gallagher – While his goal was also fluky, he was the top player from Montreal’s #1 line on the night. He wasn’t afraid to mix it up after the whistle which was one of the few signs of life we saw on an otherwise listless night.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, -1 rating, 4 shots, 1 hit, 1 block, 18:40 TOI
3rd Star: Andrei Markov – With Subban not 100%, the Habs didn’t have a chance to hold back Markov’s minutes but the veteran was able to get through this game without many glaring mistakes. To me, he looked a lot better than we’ve seen from him in recent outings.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 1 hit, 2 blocks, 22:07 TOI
Honourable Mention: Max Pacioretty – I didn’t think he had the best of games but he did drive the net for a couple of high quality scoring chances and on a night where very few stood out, that alone was enough to earn the honourable mention.
Stats: 0 points, -2 rating, 2 PIMS, 6 shots (9 attempts), 19:54 TOI
Stat of the Night: Andrei Markov’s assist on Subban’s goal from outside the blueline was the 406th helper of his career, tying him with Guy Lapointe for the 2nd most in franchise history by a defenceman.
The teams will play the rubber match of this home-and-home set on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. Puck drop is at 7:30 PM EST.