The Montreal Canadiens continued their big weekend with a game against the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets. The Habs were unable to overcome some unlucky breaks in this one and they dropped the game 4-3 in regulation.
The Habs were coming off an impressive performance in a big win against the Panthers yesterday. Columbus also played an afternoon game yesterday, falling in overtime to the Sabres in Buffalo. Ryan Poehling took Jordan Weal’s place in the lineup, with Carey Price starting in goal.
After a back and forth first two minutes, the Habs started to take over. Once the Canadiens found their speed, they started heavily outshooting and out-chancing the Blue Jackets. Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins was the only reason that his team was still tied through most of the first period.
With seven minutes left in the period, Columbus got their first dangerous chance, Pierre-Luc Dubois forced a turnover in the Habs zone and the puck was rung around to Vladislav Gavrikov who shot it past Price. Despite their great play, Montreal found themselves down in the first period.
With four minutes to go in the period, Dale Weise was sent off for slashing. Thankfully for the Habs, the Columbus power play has struggled mightily lately, and it did not look very good on this attempt. There was one good chance on the rush for Cam Atkinson but Price slid across to cover it with his pad.
The goal and power play for Columbus took a little bit of momentum away from the Habs and they did not carry the play in the second half of the period like they did in the first half. They went into the intermission knowing they still had lots of work to do, trailing 1-0.
Right at the start of the second period, the Habs came within inches of tying the game. Tomas Tatar’s initial shot went off the inside of the post and it was sitting in the crease. There was a scramble but the puck went harmlessly into the corner.
Three minutes later, Columbus caught a lucky break when there was a puck battle in their own zone. The puck came out from the scrum and came along the board right onto the stick of Pierre-Luc Dubois, who beat Price on a breakaway.
Later on, Tatar stole the puck in the Columbus zone and was in all alone but he was called for slashing and the chance was negated. However, Tatar got a chance to finish what he started when he got out of the box. Nick Suzuki forced a turnover at the offensive blue line and Brendan Gallagher set up a streaking Tatar on the right side, who fired it behind Merzlikins to put the Habs on the board.
The Canadiens started to carry the play again and came close to tying it on a number of occasions. Their best chance came when Price came out of his net to play the puck and fired it up ice. The play continued and Nate Thompson’s shot just caught the glove of Merzlikins and stayed out.
With just a couple minutes left, Dubois got his second lucky break of the period. Price went to cover the puck, but it hit the top of his glove and found Dubois, who wrapped it around to restore the two-goal lead for his team.
Montreal finally got a power play chance of their own with one minute left in the middle frame. With the intermission splitting up the chance, the Habs couldn’t get in sync and didn’t come close with the man advantage.
Columbus had no interest in playing offensively in the third period. They just clogged up the neutral zone and dumped the puck whenever they got it. This made things very difficult for the Habs, as every time they looked up there was a Blue Jacket right in front of them.
With seven minutes to go, Tatar drew a hooking penalty, sending the Habs to a critical power play. The Habs couldn’t string two passes together, and the powerplay went by with no chances. However, shortly after it was over, Max Domi fired the puck through a screened Merzlikins to cut the lead in half.
The Habs pulled the goalie with two minutes left, but a turnover led to a breakaway with the empty net for Gustav Nyquist and he made no mistake. This play did not quite finish the Habs off. Montreal pulled Price again and a Shea Weber one-timer squeezed through the legs of Merzlikins and the Canadiens were back within one.
The Habs pulled the goalie again but there just wasn’t enough time left to tie it up as the Blue Jackets stole two points from the Habs.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Tomas Tatar
Tatar generated the most chances out of anyone on the Montreal side in this one. He was constantly on the puck and his strong forechecks led to chances for his linemates.
Stats: 1G, 1A, -1, 2 SOG, 2 hits, 17:50 TOI
Second Star – Max Domi
After a strong finish to 2019, Domi has had a miserable start to 2020. This afternoon was his best game in a while and he finally found his way back to the scoresheet.
Stats: 1G, +1, 4 SOG, 1 hit, 16:57 TOI
Third Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki is continuing to mature into his role as the second line centre. In the loss, he still managed to have a positive plus/minus differential. He also had a great stick to intercept the pass that led to the first goal for the Habs.
Stats: 1A, +1, 2 SOG, 2 hits, 20:10 TOI
Honourable Mention – Shea Weber
Weber had a strong physical presence for most of the night today. He was also scary with his point shot all game. He had several opportunities, but most of his shots whistled just wide of the net. He finally broke through in the last minute, but unfortunately, it was too little too late.
Stats: 1G, 0 +/-, 4 SOG, 1 hit, 23:15 TOI