The Habs were looking to kick off February on a happy note as they travelled to Philadelphia on Tuesday night. However, their slump continues as the Flyers skated to a 4-2 victory.
Montreal made a pair of lineup changes for this game. Tom Gilbert returned to the lineup after missing more than a month with a lower body injury; he took the place of Alexei Emelin. Lucas Lessio also made his Canadiens debut on the fourth line, taking Jacob de la Rose’s spot as he wasn’t recalled following the All-Star break.
Special teams were the theme of the opening period. Early on, Nathan Beaulieu took a holding penalty. The Habs did well to kill off most of it but in the dying seconds, Jakub Voracek kicked off a nifty passing play that eventually led to Wayne Simmonds tapping one past Mike Condon who had no chance on the play.
After that, Montreal started to take control of the game, particularly by generating chances off the rush. Unfortunately, as they’ve learned plenty lately, chances don’t equal goals and they weren’t able to get one during their flurry. Later on, Max Pacioretty took an iffy interference penalty and unlike their first chance, the Flyers wasted little time as Brayden Schenn redirected one past Condon.
The Habs did get a power play late in the period and they too made something of it. Alex Galchenyuk missed the net on a one-timer but the puck bounced right to Andrei Markov who had crept up from the point and he banked one off the post and in to get the visitors on the board before the intermission. Montreal outshot Philly 15-11 in the first.
The tables were flipped somewhat for the second. While the Habs were the better of the two teams in the first, the Flyers were better in this period. That didn’t show up on the scoreboard, however, as it was the Canadiens who scored the only goal.
Devante Smith-Pelly, who had a quietly effective game overall, had a prime scoring chance but was unable to beat Mason. However, the Habs kept the puck in and Jeff Petry was able to fire one past Philly’s goalie with Smith-Pelly providing the perfect screen.
Minutes later, Max Pacioretty had a breakaway on a nice bank pass from Gilbert but was unable to convert. After that, the rest of the period was dominated by the Flyers but Condon was strong, turning aside all 17 Philadelphia shots in the period. Montreal had just seven.
While the Montreal power play got a goal in the first, it can be argued that it was their downfall in the third. P.K. Subban drew a penalty but the Habs generated little in the way of chances.
With just over eight minutes left, Simmonds picked up his second of the night but shortly after that, the Canadiens were handed a golden opportunity. Radko Gudas was given 5-and-a-game for clipping Lucas Lessio who looked to be seriously injured on the play. Aside from a few shots from Subban and Nathan Beaulieu missing the net on a few, Montreal generated precious few opportunities.
Less than two minutes after the penalty expired, Matt Read potted an empty netter to seal the victory for the Flyers.
Condon made 32 saves on 35 shots in the losing effort while Mason turned aside 30 shots. Philadelphia was 2/4 with the man advantage while Montreal was 1/4 and will be ruing their missed chance on that late major penalty for sure.
HW Habs’ 3 Stars of the Night
1st Star: Andrei Markov – Certain players benefit from rest more than others and at this stage of his career, Markov is one of those who can really put it to good use. He was a tad quicker than usual and as a result, was much more involved in the play compared to the last few weeks. He made a great read on his PP tally to get to the open side at the right time.
Stats: 1 goal, -1 rating, 2 shots, 2 hits, 2 giveaways, 1 block, 21:45 TOI
2nd Star: Max Pacioretty – He had nothing to show for it on the scoresheet but this was one of his best games in a while. The week of rest looked like it did his knee some good as he was much more aggressive, driving the net with more regularity. More efforts like this one will see him back scoring goals in the near future.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 2 PIMS, 6 shots (11 attempts), 2 hits, 18:46 TOI
3rd Star: Devante Smith-Pelly – He didn’t play a whole lot but he made an impact when he was out there. He was involved physically, drove the net, and set screens. That’s what he needs to do to succeed and that’s what he brought to the table.
Stats: 1 assist, even rating, 3 shots (6 attempts), 4 hits, 1 giveaway, 10:53 TOI
Honourable Mention: Mike Condon – Three goals doesn’t look too good on the stat sheet but it’s hard to fault him for much in this game. He kept them in it once they were down early and gave them a chance to win. After a few tough outings from him, this was a step in the right direction.
Stats: 32 saves on 35 shots, 3.07 GAA, .914 SV%
Stat of the Night: Montreal’s defence corps had a total of twelve blocked shots. Gilbert, in his first game back, had half of them.