After three straight disappointing losses, the Habs looked to end the week on a winning note as they hosted Dallas on Saturday night. They got off to a good start but blew a 3-0 lead before losing in overtime as they fell 4-3.
Montreal made one planned lineup change for this one as Nate Thompson was scratched with the flu while Dale Weise took his spot; Jake Evans moved over to centre on the fourth line. However, Jonathan Drouin was scratched with a lower-body injury after the warmup which meant that Jordan Weal took his spot alongside Nick Suzuki and Ilya Kovalchuk. Meanwhile, Carey Price got the start in both ends of the back-to-back for the fourth time this season. In his previous three appearances, he managed only a .869 SV%. That number went down after this one.
The game got off to an eventful start. On the first shift, Blake Comeau got around Suzuki in transition and drove the net for a good scoring chance that Price made the stop on. On the ensuing shift, the Habs gained the zone and Max Domi threw the puck towards Ben Bishop. Bishop made the stop but coughed up a bad rebound right to Joel Armia who put it in to open up the scoring less than a minute in.
While Montreal had a few shots shortly after, the rest of the period was marked by more injury trouble. Brendan Gallagher was banged up in the aftermath of a spin-around shot attempt in his first shift after the Armia goal that caused him to miss some time. Meanwhile, Domi blocked a shot with his hand which resulted in him missing a bit of time although both players ultimately returned.
Just past the eight-minute mark, Price made a nice glove stop on Mattias Janmark. Five minutes later, he denied Jamie Benn’s quest for his 300th NHL goal when he stopped him on a breakaway following a well-placed alley-oop pass from Corey Perry. In the final minute, the Canadiens tried an alley-oop pass of their own to try to spring Gallagher. The pass just missed the mark and Andrej Sekera wound up colliding with Bishop fairly hard on the play. The two sides went to the room after a penalty-free first period with Montreal ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard and 11-8 on the shot clock.
Suzuki had a good chance to score in the opening minute of the second period but his shot from the slot went wide. Going the other way, Miro Heiskanen blew a tire as he looked to round the Montreal net and wound up taking out Price in the process. Two minutes later, a rather innocent looking shot from Dale Weise wound up fooling Bishop but it bounced just wide.
The Habs eventually capitalized on their early chances. A minute after the Weise shot, Ben Chiarot had a perfect pass to Suzuki in transition. He entered the zone and sent a centring pass towards the net that bounced off Weal and in to make it 2-0. Less than three minutes later, Nick Cousins went untouched from the defensive zone; he skated into the Dallas end and snapped one past Bishop to make it 3-0. It seemed like the Canadiens had firm control of the game. It didn’t last.
Just past the nine-minute mark, Marco Scandella had a brutal giveaway in his own end. He put a clearing attempt right on the stick of Joe Pavelski who found Janmark for a wide-open tap-in to get Dallas on the board.
Then Montreal had some penalty trouble. Chiarot was called for a retaliatory slash on Comeau to send Dallas to the power play less than a minute after the goal. The Stars had a couple of decent chances but didn’t score. However, two minutes after that one expired, Armia was called for tripping. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they weren’t able to kill this one off. Late in the advantage, John Klingberg set up Tyler Seguin for a one-timer that made it past Price to make it 3-2.
The Stars had a good chance to tie it up late in the period. With just over a minute left, Price sent a clearing attempt right onto Pavelski’s stick. He drove the net but Price was able to make the stop and ensure his team went to the room with the same lead they had after 20 minutes despite the loss of momentum in the second half of the frame. Shots on goal in the period were 11-10 for Dallas.
Two minutes into the third, Kovalchuk was left open but Suzuki was unable to get the pass across. As far as highlights in the early going of the period go, that was basically it; the shots were 2-1 for the Stars at the eight-minute mark. Shortly past that point, Suzuki was stopped off the rush and Kovalchuk was denied on the rebound attempt.
The collapse was completed moments later. Price’s clearing attempt failed to clear the zone and went to Comeau. He let a seeing-eye shot go and it managed to sneak through and beat Price to tie it up. It was the third time this season that the Habs blew a three-goal lead.
With five minutes to go, Domi was caught with a high stick that went uncalled. At this point of the game, there was some frustration from the Montreal bench with regards to the whistle (or in this instance, the lack thereof). That only grew later on.
Montreal had a decent chance with four minutes to go but Jeff Petry’s point shot broke his stick. The puck went to Gallagher but he sailed it over the net. The shots were 8-5 for Montreal in the period but Dallas had the only goal which sent it to overtime.
In the opening minute, Armia was tripped up but it didn’t draw a whistle from the officials. Let’s just say that the Habs were riled up a bit more about that one.
Their frustration didn’t stop them from getting some chances though. Less than a minute later, Phillip Danault sent in Tomas Tatar on a quick breakaway but his deke attempt was stopped by Bishop. Seconds later, Chiarot was stopped in close. A minute later, Armia set up Suzuki for a good chance that was again stopped by Bishop, sending Dallas the other way. Klingberg sent the puck to Seguin who was one-on-one with Victor Mete. He deked the defender out before sending a backhander past Price to complete the comeback and extend Montreal’s losing streak. Before the Habs left the ice, Gallagher, Julien, and several other players on the bench really let the referees have it as their frustration completely boiled over.
Bishop was shaky early on but was solid in the second half as he made 29 stops in the win while Price turned aside 22 of 26 shots in the loss. Dallas went 1/2 with the power play while Montreal did not have any opportunities with the man advantage.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Jordan Weal – For someone that hadn’t played in a while, wasn’t expected to play in this one, and was thrown in on a line he had no practice time with, Weal handled himself quite well. He had a shooters mentality early on (something the Habs have lacked) and drove the net for his goal. Drouin’s status will ultimately decide whether or not he plays on Tuesday but he did well enough to earn another game.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 3 shots, 2 hits, 15:32 TOI
2nd Star: Ben Chiarot – He has been quiet over the last little while but this was a strong performance. He and Victor Mete are starting to show some chemistry which is certainly a good sign. Chiarot made a good play that ultimately led to Weal’s goal and led the team in shots and blocks. The only blemish on his night was the slash on Comeau that got called (even if the initial takedown could have been called) that led to Seguin’s power play marker.
Stats: 1 assist, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 5 shots, 4 blocks, 25:07 TOI
3rd Star: Nick Suzuki – There are certain games where a player is just noticeable throughout. This was one of those for Suzuki and for the most part, he stood out in a positive way. He had an off night at the faceoff dot (those happen to pretty much everyone) but he is more than holding his own in the top six.
Stats: 1 assist, -1 rating, 5 shots, 5/17 faceoffs, 17:07 TOI
Honourable Mention: Nick Cousins – Montreal’s fourth line had some struggles overall with a unit that didn’t have a lot of practice time together. Cousins was the best of the group and his goal was an important one, even if it ultimately didn’t mean much in the end. He’s someone that has a small chance of being dealt and a game like this certainly doesn’t hurt his value.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 1 shot, 11:49 TOI