In their last game before the break, the Habs were looking to head into the bye week with their fourth win in the last five games as they took on Max Pacioretty and the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. The Habs had a very good first period and had a 3-0 lead after one. After the Golden Knights brought the lead to one in the second, the Habs appeared to take control back in the third. However, two late goals from Vegas forced overtime. In the extra frame, Montreal dominated but they could not find the winner. A big shootout goal from Tomas Tatar and a clutch save from Carey Price gave the Habs a shootout victory.
Early on in the game Reilly Smith picked off a pass in his own zone and was off to the races looking for a quick opening goal. Max Domi turned on the jets, caught him, and checked his stick just in time to send the puck into the corner.
Six minutes in, Marco Scandella gained the zone and dumped the puck deep. Nate Thompson picked it up and sent it low to Dale Weise. Weise then made a perfect backhand pass onto the stick of Nick Cousins, who slid it through Marc-Andre Fleury and just past the goal line.
Right after the goal, William Carrier was assessed a hooking penalty and the first power play chance belonged to the Habs. Vegas clogged up the neutral zone effectively and the Canadiens couldn’t break through to generate many chances.
Later on in the period, Tatar picked up the puck at his own blue line and gained speed through the neutral zone. He pulled off a great toe drag to lose his defenceman, and then the puck went back to Phillip Danault. With Ilya Kovalchuk going to the net, Danault put it on goal and Kovalchuk put the rebound home to double the Montreal lead.
With five minutes left in the first, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was sent off for holding. There was some confusion with the penalty clock, and the power play seemed to last a little bit longer than it should have. That did not matter as the penalty kill kept going strong and the Knights were shut down.
A good first period became great for the Habs just before it ended. With less than two minutes left, a Brett Kulak point shot was redirected off Nick Nick Holden in front, and it fooled Fleury. Kulak’s first of the season gave the Habs a commanding 3-0 lead to take to the locker room. During the second intermission, it was announced that the goal was changed to Joel Armia, with assists to Kulak and Domi.
A couple of minutes into the second period, the Habs lost a defensive zone faceoff and Ryan Poehling blocked a hard shot at the point. He had a tough time getting off the ice and was favouring his knee. Thankfully he was back on the bench a few minutes later.
Nine minutes into the period, Chandler Stephenson put a shot on net through traffic that almost fooled Price but he stuck his pad out and just caught the puck underneath it. Off the next faceoff, Reilly Smith picked the puck up behind the net; Jonathan Marchessault found some open ice and one-timed Smith’s pass to cut into the Montreal lead.
With five minutes to go in the period, Vegas cut into the lead a little more. Paul Stastny won a battle in front with Armia and Price and fired it in for the second Golden Knights goal.
Vegas got their legs under them with the second goal and started putting some heavy pressure on the Habs. They weren’t able to tie it up before the end of the middle frame, but they made the Habs much less comfortable than they were at the end of the first.
The Habs had a strong start to the third period and began putting pressure on the Golden Knights again. They were keeping their shifts short and all lines were contributing. Vegas had a couple of chances but Price and the defence didn’t allow anything to get through.
At the midway point of the period the Habs got some much-needed insurance. Weise broke in on a two-on-one and he sent a perfect pass across to Nick Cousins who fired home his second of the night and got the Bell Centre crowd back on their feet.
With eight minutes to go in the third, Price stopped a Marchessault shot, but Shea Weber hit the rebound out of play and got called for delay of game. The Golden Knights had a great chance on a point-blank one-timer but Price made a huge save. That was the only chance Vegas had and Montreal came up with a gutsy penalty kill.
Vegas pulled Fleury with two minutes left to start their late push. The former Habs’ captain Max Pacioretty’s point shot found its way through traffic and got the Golden Knights within one. The Knights pushed hard after the goal, and things got frantic in the Montreal zone. With just seven seconds left Smith deflected a Stastny shot and Vegas came all the way back to tie it.
The Habs dominated the overtime period. They had the puck almost the whole time and came close on several occasions. Kovalchuk was especially dominant in the extra frame but the Habs couldn’t find the winner and it went to a shootout.
Kovalchuk went first for the Habs and fired it past Fleury, but Marchessault came back to tie it up. Cousins went second but was stopped by the pad of Fleury, then Shea Theodore came back and was stopped by Price. Armia came in third but fanned on his shot but Price kept the Habs in it with a stop on Alex Tuch. Tatar came in fourth and made a great move for the lead. Smith came in with the game on his stick. Price made the pad stop and threw his hands up in the air as the team poured over the boards to celebrate a Habs win!
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Nick Cousins
Cousins looked out of place earlier in the year when injuries forced him to play top six minutes. However, he has looked much better on the fourth line with Thompson and Weise. He came up big for Montreal in this one with two important goals.
Stats: 2G, +1, 2 SOG, 11:16 TOI
Second Star – Dale Weise
Weise hasn’t had a lot of memorable games since his last stint with the Habs, but this was a big one. He made great plays on each of Cousins’ goals and was a very important part of this key win for the Canadiens.
Stats: 2A, +2, 1 SOG, 4 hits, 9:10 TOI
Third Star – Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk was unbelievable in the overtime frame. He had several dangerous chances and played a lot of time. He also scored his first Bell Centre goal as a Montreal Canadien. After just a couple weeks, he has already shown that he knows what it means to be a Hab, and his passion for the game seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the team.
Stats: 1G, -1, 3 SOG, 2 hits, 19:09 TOI
Honourable Mention- Tomas Tatar
Tatar’s great night started with the nice play that led to the Kovalchuk goal in the first period. Much like Kovalchuk, Tatar was great in the overtime and had a few chances himself. He also played over one minute in overtime. He capped it off with a clutch shootout winner to send the Habs into their break on a positive note.
Stats: shootout winner, +1, 2 SOG, 1 hit, 14:49 TOI