The Habs kicked off yet another back-to-back scenario with Wednesday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators. They wanted to get off to a better start as a win without staging a late-game comeback was surely a goal for the team. They also wanted the win to overtake the struggling Jets as the third seed in the division.
To do so against this Senators team that has given the Habs fits this year was a tall order, so the team opted for Jake Allen between the pipes as he faced Anton Forsberg for the Sens. The lineup saw minor changes as Brett Kulak replaced Alexander Romanov in the top four defensively, and Cole Caufield replaced Jesperi Kotkaniemi on the team’s top line with Phillip Danault and Josh Anderson. Kotkaniemi played third line centre with Jake Evans and Artturi Lehkonen as his wingers. This meant little as the Sens continued to be a thorn in the Habs sides as they completely buried them with a totally deserved 5-1 victory.
The game was all Montreal in the opening 10 minutes as Caufield, Kotkaniemi, and Tyler Toffoli were all stopped by Forsberg on good scoring chances. As the midway point of the period approached, the usual boring trap from the Senators took over and the scoring chances dwindled for both teams. This obviously was not a good sign for the Habs as they had yet to score and had dominated so far. At the ten-minute mark of the period, Allen had to make his first good stop as he frustrated Ryan Dzingel from the slot.
The Sens finally opened the scoring 11:35 into the game as an Artem Zub point shot was poorly handled by Allen who gave up a juicy rebound to the back door where Shane Pinto was waiting to deposit his first NHL goal into an empty net as Evans was late in coverage.
Allen’s shaky play continued as he won a race to a loose puck but left the clearing attempt short which gave the Senator a wide–open net. Fortunately, Allen scrambled and made a diving stop to cover his own mistake. The Habs were suddenly second to every loose puck available, but Brady Tkachuk was his team’s worst enemy in this sequence. He poked home a puck after the whistle and the Habs veteran fourth line took exception. They responded with a dominant shift in the Ottawa zone that turned the tide. With the Habs once again controlling the play, the veteran line won no less than four puck battles in the Ottawa zone against Victor Mete which led to a faceoff win by Nick Suzuki and then a give-and-go between Toffoli and Joel Edmundson which ended up with the defender putting home the equalizer with only 32 seconds to go in the period.
The second period started with a pick play by Josh Anderson being called for tripping, sending Ottawa to the first power play of the night. Allen made six stops on the sequence, but the man advantage wasn’t too dangerous.
The Sens continued to carry the play after the power play though as they scored on the very next shift. An Ottawa dump in saw Edmundson lose a puck battle as both Jeff Petry and Suzuki over-skated their checks. The result was a successful pass to the slot where Tkachuk was able to one-time it home to restore the Ottawa lead.
The goal completely hammered Montreal’s confidence as they were nowhere to be found for the rest of the period. Allen was giving sloppy rebounds while the defenders were far too soft in their clearing attempts and completely inaccurate in their passing. The forwards were never quite deep enough as they tried to cheat offensively and they too were far too soft when they had a chance to clear the puck.
Just about the only interesting scoring chance for the Habs came near the game’s median when Kotkaniemi fed a sweet cross-ice pass to Evans who proceeded to fire the puck directly into Forsberg’s glove.
The rest of the period was all Ottawa. They would get a second power play chance after Jon Merrill was called for high sticking. The Sens couldn’t score on the man advantage, but they were able to extend their lead with a goal in the final minute as a point shot was deflected by Nick Paul past Allen. What a terrible period by the Habs!
The third started with a line switch from Ducharme as Armia joined Danault and Caufield while Anderson found himself next to Suzuki and Toffoli. This worked to an extent as the Habs were playing in the offensive zone to start the period but were unable to solve Forsberg.
This bit them quickly as Zub found Connor Brown for a cross-ice one-timer that beat Allen. Defensive zone coverage between Chiarot and Kulak was absolutely putrid on that goal, and the Sens found themselves comfortably in the driver’s seat with a 4-1 lead. The veterans then started a few scrums to try to generate some emotion for their team, but nothing really happened other than a 4-on-4 sequence that was without interesting developments.
The final ten minutes of the night kicked off with Edmundson getting two more scoring chances from great passes by Suzuki. This was unfortunate because, on the next shift, Alex Formenton completely humiliated Edmundson before roofing one over Allen’s shoulder to extend the lead to 5-1.
This kicked off both teams going through the motions as the Habs were clearly turning their attention to Thursday night’s contest against the Leafs while the Sens were once again cruising to a win over Montreal. The Habs got a power play chance with under five minutes to play but much like the rest of the game, it wasn’t a good one for the Habs.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki is, much like Toffoli, a pretty quiet player that completes his defensive assignments and waits for the opposition to give him openings. He took advantage of them on this night, but they were play-making opportunities and he saw Toffoli get stopped in the first, Armia whiff on a few passes in the second before Edmundson missed the net on two good passes in the third. All of these chances were from the stick of Suzuki who managed to continue his point streak but could have had more had some of his plays been cashed in.
Stats: 1 assist, –1, 7 shots, 3 hits, 16:00 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Joel Edmundson
Nothing against Edmundson, but any night that he’s one of the team’s best, that team is in trouble. He scored and got two good scoring chances in the third before being completely humiliated by Formenton on the Sens’ 5th goal. It really wasn’t a great game by Edmundson, but his presence here mostly underlines the lack of energy from every player on the roster on this night.
Stats: 1 goal, -1, 1 shot, 20:22 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Corey Perry
In his limited role, Perry was one of the few Habs who played hard, created some offence and continued competing and trying to get some emotion in his team. This could have gone to any one of the players of the veteran line as that line forechecked hard and created what little momentum the team could muster, but that’s precisely the role of the fourth line, isn’t it?
Stats: 3 shots, 16:45 T.O.I.