The Habs playoff push took a giant blow on Monday with the loss to the Coyotes. It took another on Wednesday even before the game started as it was revealed that Shea Weber would be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after much speculation throughout the day regarding the severity of that injury.
The Habs did get some good news though as Phillip Danault was in uniform as the Habs tried to avoid a near-fatal blow against the Bruins on Wednesday night. For the occasion, Claude Julien opted to keep the lineup as it was on Monday. Carey Price was the starter and faced Tuukka Rask. Nothing mattered though as the Habs were dealt another loss, this time it was signed by a specific player as David Pastrnak scored all three goals that mattered for the Bruins in a 4-1 victory over the Habs.
The Bruins attacked early as the opening minutes of the game were spent in the defensive zone as Price was forced to stop play often to settle down the team. The Habs tried to respond by ramping up the physicality but this strategy didn’t work immediately.
At the seven-minute mark, the Bruins would finally open the scoring. Poor puck management in the neutral zone by Jonathan Drouin created a turnover with his defencemen flat-footed. Brad Marchand skated past Jeff Petry who got called for a blatant holding infraction. However, Petry would never make it to the penalty box because Brett Kulak followed Petry and Marchand to the corner and left Pastrnak alone to beat Price after a great pass by Marchand.
The response to the goal was excellent as Ilya Kovalchuk found Brendan Gallagher in the slot but the shot was deflected. Nick Suzuki then delivered a glorious pass to Nick Cousins who was stoned by Rask.
The second half of the period started with a Danault penalty for too many men as he got caught trying to cheat into play a little early on a line change. The Habs killed the power play and took momentum as the rest of the period was spent in Boston’s zone. Max Domi missed the best chance of the sequence as a rebound came to him and he had an empty net but was unable to hit the bouncing puck.
With 90 seconds left in the period, Marchand threw a tantrum after being hit by Petry. Marchand cross-checked, took a slash, and responded with a spear and then the gloves dropped. The result of the exchange was a power play for the Habs as both got away without fighting penalties and Marchand got away with the spear. The Habs minute on the man advantage was ineffective as they only got one shot off to bring the shot totals to 11-10 for the period.
The opening 40 seconds on the power play for the Habs was atrocious which really created an opening four minutes of play that was tentative for both teams. Afterwards, a beautiful zone exit by Gallagher and Petry brought the Habs to the offensive zone. Both Tatar and Petry refused to take shots from the slot and Boston made them pay. Petry got the puck stolen as he kept the puck way too long. This created a two-on-one for Sean Kuraly and Pastrnak. The pass to Pastrnak was precise and Pastrnak outwaited Price for his second of the game.
Once again, the Habs responded and this time they cut the lead. Only seconds after the goal, an excellent pinch by Xavier Ouellet kept the play alive for Suzuki. Suzuki sent the puck to the point for Marco Scandella who did take the shot and saw the puck deflected past Rask by Suzuki.
Immediately after the goal, Danton Heinen was called for slashing so the Habs had a glorious chance to even the score. Before the puck even touched the ice again, Zdeno Chara got away with a blatant cross-check to the face of Gallagher. Instead, both were sent to the box with offsetting minors.
Unfortunately, Nick Cousins lost two consecutive puck battles to kill any momentum the Habs could have created on the power play. This squandered advantage proved costly since Pastrnak completed the hat trick before the end of the period. With play at 4-on-4, Joel Armia was called for roughing on a play that did not match the stupidity of the Marchand and Chara infractions.
The Bruins took little time scoring on the 4-on-3 when Petry took a rebound and sent it to Pastrnak in his attempt to get it away from Patrice Bergeron. Pastrnak simply had to shoot it into the open cage to make it 3-1 with 4:15 to play. The Habs did not quit but puck luck wasn’t with them as Domi hit two posts before the end of the period.
The Bruins started the third period with a clear goal of keeping this period low event. First the first four minutes, the Habs certainly obliged. The Habs would then be offered a power play when Charlie McAvoy was called for clearing the puck over the glass. The Suzuki-Tatar combo got the only good chance of the advantage and Gallagher took a high-sticking minor on the rebound to send the Bruins to the power play. The Habs killed the penalty but the Bruins were able to take the momentum as Heinen was robbed by Price a few moments after the man advantage had expired.
For the better part of the time left, the puck stayed in Montreal’s zone as the fight appeared to have left the Habs for the first time this season. A few examples were to be observed as Suzuki was able to create an offensive chance late but couldn’t capitalize. Bergeron finally put the game to rest with an empty netter with 20 seconds left on the clock.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Nick Suzuki
It’s becoming difficult to find new ways of explaining the play of Suzuki as Montreal’s most (or one of) dangerous forward. Suzuki is showing consistency and responsibility despite being offensively dangerous and creative. Teams have noticed because he’s drawing tougher matchups since his move to the top-six but he simply doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. Watching Suzuki is exciting for many reasons including the potential longevity of having such a potent offensive weapon on the team.
Stats: 1 goal, 0 (+/-), 16:55 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Xavier Ouellet
With Weber out long term, Christian Folin not really fast enough to keep pace, and Victor Mete struggling mightily with his decisions away from the puck, Ouellet has a glorious opportunity in front of him to stick with the big club. He gets that chance playing with the steady presence of Marco Scandella, both hometown boys had solid games on this night. If they continue to do so, one can imagine that they’ll start getting tougher matchups. Ouellet’s decision making in all three zones were noticeably good, so much so that he took Mete’s place in the dying moments of the second period. Hopefully he can build on this excellent game.
Stats: 1 assist, 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 3 hits, 14:21 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Marco Scandella
With not much to celebrate on this night, Scandella’s goal is the perfect opportunity to highlight the steady effect that he has had on the third pairing of this team. He’s not a flashy player and we rarely hear his name over the course of a game, but this means he rarely gets beat and often makes the right play both with and without the puck. Nice addition here and I would like to see him back on July 1st.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 14:50 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Ilya Kovalchuk
Despite being slightly quieter on the scoreboard of late, Kovalchuk remains a player that is always noticeable on the ice. He’s steadily creating offensive chances for his linemates and getting himself open for the pass. He completes strong backchecks and rarely gets caught with bad decisions with the puck. Add his size that is an anomaly on this roster and it’s easy to see why this player has so quickly become a fan favourite in Montreal.
Stats: 0 points, 0 (+/-), 1 shot, 1 hit, 20:17 T.O.I.