After a good showing against Winnipeg, the Habs looked to get their second straight win as they hosted Ottawa on Saturday night. After failing to pick up two straight victories in all of April, they did so in this one with Cole Caufield scoring the overtime winner in a 3-2 contest.
Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme opted to make a pair of lineup changes. Cayden Primeau got the start in goal which wasn’t a big surprise with Jake Allen struggling a bit against the Jets. Meanwhile, Brett Kulak returned after sitting seven straight, taking Erik Gustafsson’s place on the third pairing with Shea Weber not yet ready to return.
The Canadiens have been sloppy defensively in recent weeks and this came up early in the first. Just 75 seconds in, a basic dump out by Chris Tierney off the boards bounced to Ryan Dzingel who somehow was left wide open but Primeau made the stop. Montreal’s first decent chances came two minutes later when Josh Anderson set up Joel Edmundson off the rush. His shot missed and Anderson was stopped seconds later in close.
Less than 30 seconds later, Connor Brown rang one off the crossbar after Primeau had terrible rebound control off a soft shot from Tierney. Less than two minutes after that, Josh Brown (no relation) put one off the bar as well.
Just past the eight-minute mark, Jon Merrill was unable to clear the puck off the right side wall at the blueline and Caufield wound up being in the way. Seconds later, Thomas Chabot danced around Caufield to set up Michael Amadio with a perfect pass but he was stopped in tight by Primeau. 30 seconds after that, Victor Mete was stopped off the rush.
Montreal started to settle down in the second half of the frame as the play found its way into Ottawa’s end more often. Corey Perry made a nice move on a wraparound with some nifty work with his hands that gave the fourth line some zone time with pressure although nothing really got through.
Scoring chances were largely limited in that back half of the period although the Habs had a couple late. With 50 seconds left, Edmundson’s shot was deflected and bounced off the post. Then in the dying seconds, Eric Staal was set up in close but couldn’t beat Filip Gustavsson as the game was scoreless after 20 minutes. The shots on goal in a very fast-paced opening period were 9-8 for Ottawa.
The Habs had good pressure early on in the second with Tyler Toffoli getting stopped in close and drawing a slash for his troubles. On the delayed penalty, Joel Armia was stopped on a hard slapper. Then the power play came and things went downhill. Caufield missed on an attempt to keep the puck in and Romanov pinched when he should have, leading to a two-on-none that Ottawa failed to even get a shot off on. Meanwhile, Montreal did nothing on the man advantage after that.
Two minutes after that expired, Armia had another chance, this time in tight but Gustavsson outwaited him and Armia couldn’t get much of a shot off. Jake Evans then set up Caufield who had snuck around Shane Pinto to get in alone but the pass just jumped over his stick. Moments later, Alexander Romanov had a big hit on Josh Norris and after some quick discussion, Romanov was the first to drop the gloves in a fight that Norris had the advantage on.
In the first period, it was the Senators who came out strong with the Canadiens waking up in the second half. It was the opposite in the second as Ottawa started to pressure more frequently. They were able to get on the board off a clean offensive faceoff win from Colin White. The puck got to Tim Stutzle on the boards; he skated to the middle and roofed one past Primeau who didn’t get a good look at it.
The fourth line had some pressure late in the frame, leading to chances for both sides. Perry turned it over which sent Ottawa in on the rush but they missed the net. The Habs came back and got set up in the zone with the puck working its way to Jeff Petry whose point shot was stopped. Montreal had some more pressure a minute later but while trying to change in the offensive zone, were rightfully called for their second too many men penalty in as many days. Ottawa didn’t score in the first 52 seconds of the advantage, sending the teams to the room with the Sens up by a goal. The Senators once again outshot the Habs by one, this time holding the 11-10 advantage.
Things got worse to start the third as Phillip Danault was called for high-sticking Stutzle to give Ottawa a 49-second two-man advantage. The Habs did a great job killing it off, clearing it twice and limiting the Sens to basically nothing. They then killed off the rest of the five-on-four with Montreal getting a good chance as a clearing attempt from Romanov hit a broken stick, sending the Habs in two on one but Evans wasn’t able to beat Gustavsson.
Ottawa then had a couple of chances. Stutzle got a half step on Montreal’s defender and skated in off the rush but Primeau got a shoulder on it. A minute and a half later, the Habs had a brutal giveaway in their own end but Tierney was only able to get a weak backhand off despite having some time to get a better shot off.
The Sens were finally able to get a second one past Primeau. Suzuki was unable to keep the puck in on a clearing attempt from Ottawa’s end and the counter-attack came quickly. Evgenii Dadonov sent the puck over to Chabot who fired it through a screen and in to double the lead.
There have been games this season where that would have been it for Montreal. This was not one of those as the Canadiens charged back, attacking aggressively. Caufield had a nice chance a minute after the goal, skating from the right wall across towards the left before spinning and firing a dangerous shot that Gustavsson was able to get a piece of with the glove.
Less than two minutes later, Petry took a pass at his own blueline and attacked down the middle. He was looking at Toffoli and eventually got Erik Brannstrom to bite on the fake. That gave him a bit more room to work with in the slot and he made the most of it, beating Gustavsson to get the Habs on the board.
Just before the midway point, Montreal had a glorious attempt to tie it up when Michael Frolik sent a perfect pass towards a charging Artturi Lehkonen. However, his tip went wide. Seconds later, Pinto was called for hooking.
On the man advantage, Toffoli did a great job to knock the puck down at the point with what was very close to being a high stick. The Habs settled it down and Toffoli got the puck on the boards and sent it out to Suzuki in the middle of the ice near the top of the blueline. That’s not his ‘spot’ but it was good enough to beat Gustavsson and tie the game. Or so they thought. Senators coach D.J. Smith challenged for goalie interference with Corey Perry’s skate being at the top of the crease right beside Gustavsson which he believed impeded his netminder’s attempt to get across on the shot. It turned out to be a wise move as the goal was overturned. Montreal did nothing with the rest of the advantage.
The good news is that the shift after the power play got them going again. Evans got the puck behind the net and tried to stuff it home, drawing a Nikita Zaitsev cross-check for his troubles, sending the Habs back to the power play. They made it count this time as Suzuki set up Toffoli this time and his one-timer off the feed behind the net beat Gustavsson to tie it up.
With just over four minutes to go, Anderson had a glorious chance to give the Habs the lead. Staal had a perfect feed from behind the net past an outstretched Mete, giving Anderson the puck alone in the slot with time to settle the puck down and get a good shot off but it instead drew iron. Two and a half minutes later, Armia set up Suzuki (again from behind the net) but Gustavsson got a glove on it. Ottawa had some pressure in the last minute but the game went to overtime with the shots on goal a lopsided 18-3 for Montreal.
The Habs put out Suzuki and Petry as the forwards to start the overtime but still went to the rope-a-dope strategy that Ducharme likes. They changed to their second unit which still didn’t do much and eventually, they turned it over, allowing two Senators to change. Brady Tkachuk didn’t however, which was big. Evans and Caufield were the third pairing out there and Evans was stopped in all alone just past the two-minute mark. The Habs got control back with Petry attacking the left side occupied by Tkachuk with speed. The winger had nothing left in the tank, giving Petry some space to work with. He sent a cross-ice feed to Caufield who drove the net and tipped home the game-winning goal for a memorable first career NHL tally.
Primeau made 21 saves to pick up his second career victory (both over Ottawa, both in overtime) while Gustavsson made 35 stops in the loss despite a solid game. Montreal won the special teams battle again as they were 1/3 with the man advantage while Ottawa was 0/2.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Jeff Petry – Down two, the Habs needed someone to drag them back into it. Petry did just that with his goal sparking things, his first in 23 games. We saw it in Friday’s game that he was a lot more aggressive with Weber out of the lineup and that carried over into this one, making a huge difference along the way. And, of course, he set up the winner for good measure.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2 rating, 4 shots, 3 hits, 24:05 TOI
2nd Star: Tyler Toffoli – Like most goal scorers, he can be quiet at times but he does enough to still be effective and stay in the mix. That was the case early on in the game before he really stepped it up in the third, setting up Suzuki for what looked to be the tying goal, then ultimately scoring the tying marker. It’s shocking that he’s going to have a shot at a 30-goal season in a year where there are 26 fewer games than usual. He’s at 27 now with six games to go.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, even rating, 6 shots, 2 hits, 17:56 TOI
3rd Star: Cole Caufield – I’ll be blunt – he did not have a particularly good game; there was a reason he was on the bench for most of the second half of the third period. It’s all part of the learning curve and he got beat in coverage defensively a few times. But he scored the winning goal which automatically puts him in the top three.
Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 3 shots, 2 giveaways, 11:41 TOI
Honourable Mention: Cayden Primeau – This is another one where I don’t think he played great in some aspects. His rebound control was poor and he looked nervous at times being hesitant on whether or not to go outside the crease. On the other hand, he stopped two breakaways and a few other looks in close while only allowing two goals. From a third-string goalie, the Habs will happily take that type of performance.
Stats: 21 saves on 23 shots, 1.93 GAA, .913 SV%