The Habs were looking to kick off their weekend with a win as they hosted Edmonton on Saturday afternoon. They were able to score early and often and picked up their first victory of the month, beating the Oilers 5-1.
The Canadiens made a pair of lineup changes from Wednesday night. Mark Barberio returned on the back end in place of Nathan Beaulieu while Ben Scrivens got the chance to play against his former team between the pipes.
After Michel Therrien commented about defensive zone miscues following their most recent loss, it seems only fitting that less than a minute in, the Oilers had a strong chance but Scrivens was able to shut the door. Edmonton kept up the early pressure but weren’t able to get one.
The Habs got the first power play chance of the game and made it count as Tomas Plekanec’s point shot hit Brendan Gallagher’s shin and bounced past Cam Talbot to open the scoring. Edmonton got a pair of man advantages after that but again, Scrivens shut the door.
Late in the period, Lars Eller picked up the puck in his own end, patiently waited for a skating lane to open up and headed down the ice. He executed a nice give-and-go with Tomas Fleischmann and found himself in the slot where he wristed one past Talbot to double the lead, an advantage the Habs held at the intermission. The shots were even at 12-12.
The second started similarly to the first as the Oilers had a couple of chances off of defensive zone struggles but Scrivens kept them off the board. Just past the six minute mark, Devante Smith-Pelly was assessed an extra two minute penalty (on top of offsetting minors) where things really got interesting.
Edmonton had a couple of prime chances but weren’t able to score. In the dying seconds of the man advantage, Eller had a breakaway but couldn’t score. Then as the penalty expired, Dale Weise (serving the extra minor) was sprung on a breakaway but he too couldn’t beat Talbot.
Fortunately for the home side, missing those chances wasn’t a sign of things to come. Three minutes after Weise’s attempt, Plekanec intercepted a clearing attempt, skated in, and banked a pass off of Brandon Davidson past Talbot to make it 3-0. Then, with two minutes to go, Plekanec set up P.K. Subban who wristed one home to give the Habs a 4-0 lead headed to the break. Shots on goal in the second were 9-8 for Montreal.
Zack Kassian took a penalty at the end of the second but it was the Oilers who scored on Montreal’s power play as Benoit Pouliot blew by everyone and beat Scrivens to spoil the shutout bid. That rattled the Canadiens for a few minutes as there were a few iffy moments in their own end but it didn’t come back to bite them.
Just shy of the halfway mark, Montreal got a goal from one of the most unlikely sources as Tom Gilbert picked up his first goal of the season with Plekanec picking up his fourth point of the game on the play. That was it for the scoring as the Habs snapped their losing streak.
Scrivens stopped 23 of 24 shots to get the win while Cam Talbot turned aside 19 of the 23 shots he faced. Anders Nilsson, who came in for the 3rd period, made 11 stops on 12 shots. Each team had three power plays with the Habs scoring once while the Oilers failed to capitalize on their opportunities.
HW Habs’ 3 Stars of the Afternoon
1st Star: Tomas Plekanec – After a long stretch where he seemed to be in a malaise of sorts, Plekanec was much, much better in this one. He played with some jump right at the beginning while he and Brendan Gallagher played well off each other. Will this be a one-off or a sign that he’s starting to turn it around?
Stats: 1 goal, 3 assists, +3 rating, 3 shots, 5/12 faceoffs, 17:12 TOI
2nd Star: Ben Scrivens – The call to start him against his old team made a lot of sense despite the fact he has struggled with his new team thus far. Regardless of whether or not he felt more motivated, Scrivens put forth by far his best effort with Montreal. He looked a lot more comfortable in the net after fighting the puck for much of his last outing. Did he earn the start for Sunday’s game? He just might have done so.
Stats: 23 saves on 24 shots, 1.00 GAA, .958 SV%
3rd Star: P.K. Subban – He made some strong plays around his own net to break up some potential chances while chipping in offensively as well. He wasn’t too flashy but he was effective. I like when he plays that way.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 5 shots, 24:50 TOI
Honourable Mention: Brendan Gallagher – This could have gone to a few players but Gallagher was the best of the rest. He scored from his usual spot (right in front of the net) while the extra spark Plekanec had seemed to give Gallagher a bit of a boost as well. He didn’t play a ton as Michel Therrien was able to roll four lines – especially in the 3rd – but it was a strong outing nonetheless.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +3 rating, 2 shots, 2 takeaways, 14:56 TOI
Stat of the Afternoon: Heading into this game, Ben Scrivens had faced every NHL team at least once with the exception of the Oilers.