The Habs were back in action Saturday for a rare 5 PM start in Boston. For the occasion, the Canadiens were without Max Pacioretty and Victor Mete who were flown to Montreal earlier in the day to tend to injuries sustained last night. Antti Niemi returned to the crease for this contest as the planned sharing of the net continues. Despite being recalled, newly acquired Rinat Valiev was not dressed which meant the return of Jordie Benn to the lineup. Meanwhile, Nicolas Deslauriers and Logan Shaw were back in up front with Daniel Carr being a healthy scratch. With such a large talent disadvantage, the Habs turned in a near-perfect road game. This meant an incredibly boring affair, but it was effective as the Habs kept the Bruins off the board until the final minutes of the game. This was enough to keep the streak of games with at least one point alive, as the Habs would ultimately fall in overtime by a 2-1 score.
The game started tentatively with both teams feeling each other out meaning very little in terms of notable events. The Bruins would eventually get the first scoring chance of the game, five minutes into the period, after Artturi Lehkonen was surprised by a Mike Reilly pass in front of his own net and failed to clear the zone. Niemi made two good saves to get himself into the contest, and then a minute later Niemi got a little lucky. Boston completed a rather pedestrian break out of their zone and David Schlemko was somehow caught flat-footed. The result was a 3-on-1 against Reilly, and a missed open net as the Bruins beat Reilly and Niemi, but not the post.
Near the midway point of the period, Brendan Gallagher intercepted a Kevan Miller pass in the neutral zone, skated into the Boston zone and used Torey Krug as a screen as he wristed home his 23rd goal of the season. After the Gallagher goal, the game returned to a defensive battle with neither team generating much excitement. Then, with five minutes left in the period, Paul Byron chipped a puck past Sean Kuraly and was off to the races. Kuraly took a slashing minor to prevent Byron’s breakaway from being as clear cut as it first appeared. The first wave of the power play struggled mightily, but the second wave obtained at least three good scoring chances with Nikita Scherbak controlling the play and setting up the entire sequence. Despite Scherbak’s wizardry, they were unsuccessful in scoring, and as soon as it was over, Boston’s Jake DeBrusk crashed the net and lured Noah Juulsen to take a hooking penalty with exactly two minutes to play in the period. Boston’s man advantage got plenty of zone time, but anything they put on net was stopped and frozen by Niemi, so the period ended with a 1-0 Montreal lead.
The Bruins came out strong in the second period as Marchand chipped a puck by Juulsen to set-up a 3-on-1 in the opening minute that missed the net. The Bruins largely dominated the period, but Niemi was seeing everything and his defencemen were clearing any rebounds that did surface. With nine minutes left in the period, Byron Froese and Brad Marchand collided at centre ice. Marchand got the worst of it and Brandon Carlo took exception to the incident and ended up with a two-minute minor for cross-checking. Alex Galchenyuk got a great shot off early in the power play that resulted in a nice-looking glove save by Khudobin. They buzzed in the Boston zone for much of their time with the man advantage but the Boston penalty killers did a great job of blocking the shooting lanes and keeping the Habs off he board.
As the penalty expired, Jacob de la Rose took an offensive zone tripping call. The Bruins got plenty of zone time but couldn’t get inside the Montreal defence. Before the initial penalty expired, Froese would be sent to the box, resulting in a two-man advantage. The 44 second 5-on-3 was unsuccessful but did force Niemi to make one excellent save. The rest of the advantage was disorganized as is usually the case after a 5-on-3. With two minutes left in the period, the Bruins took a bench minor playing with six players on the ice. However, the power play was once again unsuccessful and the Habs took their one-goal lead to the third period.
Fifteen seconds into the frame, Jonathan Drouin broke in with Gallagher and rang a shot off the crossbar. Before the end of the shift, they would get a second chance, and this time Drouin attempted the pass that Gallagher could not get a stick on. Mike Reilly was then sent to the penalty box for a high stick that didn’t look like it caught Rick Nash. Boston could not get going on their power play, but they would get another after a Jeff Petry hooking call. The Bruins still couldn’t tie the game despite a glorious chance that was stopped in the dying seconds of the man advantage.
With 8:16 left in the game, Zdeno Chara lost a step on Gallagher as the Bruins captain took a penalty to give Anton Khudobin time to get in place. This glorious chance to put a nail in the Bruins’ coffin was squandered by the Habs despite both units being able to create a few good chances against Khudobin. With the power play done, the Bruins took over for the last five minutes in an attempt to tie the game. Drouin was be sent to the box for delay of game that would provide one too many chances for the Bruins. After Nicolas Deslauriers lost his stick, DeBrusk got his stick on a Nick Holden shot to redirect it past Niemi to tie the game with 2:45 left to play. The goal gave Boston wings as Nash and David Pastrnak both had great chances before the end of the game, but Niemi stood tall.
The overtime was played exclusively in the Montreal zone as the Habs looked completely out of gas. After two minutes of this play, Marchand was able to squeak a puck through Niemi to end the game after some soft coverage from Drouin. It was a bit of a weak goal, but the Habs wouldn’t have even been in that scenario if not for Niemi, so he definitely gets a pass on that one.
Observation of the Night
Tonight, we saw a bunch of Montreal players that really looked exhausted for the second half of this game. Noah Juulsen, Mike Reilly, Nikita Scherbak were all far less visible as the game wore on. It’s the type of game where the loss is acceptable if the kids are learning how to handle these two games in less than twenty-four hours scenarios.
Habsworld 3 Stars
1st Star – Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher scored the lone goal on this night despite being far more discreet than he was last night. Then again, so were his linemates (and teammates for that matter). In a game where the Habs were protecting the lead for most of the night, this might have been a good thing as Galchenyuk and Drouin try to improve their play away from the puck.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 3 shots, 18:16 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Antti Niemi
It appears as though Niemi is enjoying playing for Claude Julien and the Canadiens as he appears in this section seemingly every time he enters the crease. He was excellent on this night limiting the rebound opportunities for the Bruins as his team was increasingly dominated as the game advanced.
Stats: 48 saves on 50 shots, .960 save %, 1.96 G.A.A. 62:06 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Noah Juulsen
Although way less flashy on this night, Juulsen continues to show that he belongs at this level of play. He had a few shifts where his lack of experience in back-to-back scenario at this level was on display, but the overall effort remains commendable.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 1 hit, 21:09 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Jacob de la Rose
This is the type of game where the defensive specialist should shine, and he did. He rarely gets caught defensively and he even created a few good chances offensively. This is where the injuries hurt. If de la Rose sets up Gallagher or Byron instead of Logan Shaw, perhaps this game is over before Boston can get back into it thanks to the few good set-ups by the Montreal pivot.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 2 shots, 5 hits, 12:53 T.O.I.