For the second Tuesday night in a row, the Montreal Canadiens were taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets, this time at Nationwide Arena. The Habs were coming off a 4-3 loss in overtime to the Devils on Saturday night and Columbus hadn’t played since a 3-2 win over St. Louis last Thursday. The Habs dominated for large parts of this game and held a 2-1 lead at one point. It was not meant to be as bad bounces and untimely penalties doomed the Habs in the third period as they came out on the wrong side of a 5-2 score.
The Habs had a good chance off the opening draw just five seconds into the game when Gallagher was in all alone but Joonas Korpisalo was able to make a big pad save. It was actually Columbus who was able to get on the board first. Under two minutes in, Eric Robinson hammered a seam pass from Savard past a sliding Carey Price. This was Robinson’s second career goal, both coming against Price.
The Canadiens showed some poor defensive coverage after the goal as they started to scramble in their own zone. Price was forced to make several big saves, including a toe save on Alexandre Texier. Later he was forced to make another impressive pad save on Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Throughout the first ten minutes, the first line of Tatar-Danault-Gallagher was by far the best as they were the only ones generating dangerous scoring chances.
The other three lines started to skate better and generate more chances as the period went on. This gave the Canadiens momentum and Montreal started to carry the play.
The Habs finally broke through with just under four minutes to go. On a strong forechecking shift from the first line, the Canadiens had the puck in the zone. Brett Kulak sent a pass down low to Phillip Danault. Danault looked up to see a wide open Artturi Lehkonen coming off the bench. He set up Lehkonen with a perfect feed, and it was a 1-1 game. This was Lehkonen’s first point against Columbus in his career.
The Habs took over four minutes into the second period. Ben Chiarot made a strong play along the boards to lose his man and open space. He threw it towards the net, and Joel Armia made the tip in tight to the goal and put the puck past his fellow countryman to give the Habs the lead.
After this goal, Montreal really started taking over the game. All four lines and three pairings were using their speed and skill. The Habs generated several big chances off the rush with their great transition game. The Canadiens had a golden opportunity when some unbelievable passing sent Nick Suzuki alone on a breakaway. Suzuki made a great move and appeared to open up the five-hole, but Koripisalo was able to get enough of the puck to keep it out.
Columbus drew even with seven minutes to go in the second. A bad turnover by Chiarot popped right into the slot, where a wide-open Dubois was waiting to put it in the back of the net.
Right after the goal, Jordan Weal was sent to the box for holding Texier at centre ice. Armia showed some great strength, and singlehandedly killed about forty seconds with a tenacious forecheck in the Columbus zone. Columbus’ best chance came in the dying seconds when Boone Jenner fired a shot off the post but it stayed out.
Montreal got their first power play chance with two minutes left in the second. The Habs had some good pressure in the zone in the first minute but had a hard time directing anything at the net. Halfway through Columbus cleared the puck, and the Habs were never able to regain the zone again, and the buzzer rang with the score still tied at 2.
An unfortunate break led to Columbus taking the lead seven minutes into the third. Emil Bemstrom backhanded a shot that went wide of the net. The puck bounced off the glass and went straight up in the air. Price couldn’t find it, despite turning around, and it bounced off his chest in into the net.
The Blue Jackets doubled their lead on the power play halfway through the third. Domi was called for an interference penalty at centre. Nineteen seconds in, Jenner tipped a shot in front of the net to double the lead for Columbus.
Shortly after, Werenski was called for holding. The Habs came close when Shea Weber streaked in and slid the puck right through the crease, but nobody was there to bang it home. Columbus extended their lead right after when Dubois converted a pass from Gustav Nyquist for his second of the night.
The Habs deserved a better fate in this one, but it was not meant to be with all the unlucky bounces that came back to bite them. It will be a quick turnaround, as Montreal is back in action tomorrow against Ottawa at the Bell Centre.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Joel Armia
Armia was strong on the forecheck all night and used his size to his advantage to wrestle away pucks from opponents. He showed great hands on the tight tip-in goal and could have easily had more as he was all around the net.
Stats: 1G, 3 SOG, 16:01 TOI
Second Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki continues to look like a really solid NHL centreman. It is encouraging to see him building more and more chemistry with Max Domi. They connected for the unbelievable pass on the breakaway. Suzuki is also holding his own on defence and is really becoming a strong 200-foot player
Stats: -1, 4 SOG, 16:04 TOI
Third Star – Phillip Danault
Along with his linemates, Danault controlled the play almost every time he was on the ice. He had a strong presence in the defensive zone and used a fast transition game to get onto the offensive attack quickly.
Stats: 1A, 2 SOG, 17:56 TOI
Honourable Mention – Artturi Lehkonen
People are often down on Lehkonen for his lack of finish on most nights. However, in any given game there are a lot of things he does right. In this one, he continued to play well in the defensive zone. He also showed more speed than usual and even created a couple odd-man rushes. He also converted on his best chance tonight, so hopefully, that can get his offence going more.
Stats: 1G, 4 SOG, 2 hits, 16:11 TOI