After a very encouraging victory on Thursday night, the Habs were back in action Saturday as they kicked off a small three-game road trip in Detroit. They were trying to string together a second consecutive victory for the first time this season and it was the perfect opportunity to do so against a Red Wings team that they had already beaten twice this season.
Coach Ducharme opted to keep the same lineup as Saturday. Jake Allen got the start in goal as he faced Alex Nedeljkovic. Allen was unable to finish the game after suffering what appeared to be a concussion, and this cost the team the game. The Habs stuck to the game plan and were able to get the game to overtime to earn at least a point in the 3-2 loss.
The Habs came out strong to start, but Ben Chiarot was guilty of a dumb penalty for interference only a minute and a half into the game. The Wings could not get onside though, so the Habs killed the penalty easily.
At 4:35, Michael Pezzetta entered the Wings zone with speed and with puck control before he found a trailing Ryan Poehling. Poehling fired home a nice shot low blocker to open the scoring. The Wings pushed back after the goal, but the Montreal defenders did an impressive job of keeping the puck to the outside and allowing Allen to see shots.
The second half of the first period saw some wide-open hockey as both teams got their chances, but the goaltenders were on top of their game and the score remained 1-0. Montreal’s best chance once again came off the stick of Pezzetta, who almost got a breakaway but could not catch up to the pass and was only able to swipe the puck at Nedeljkovic. With five minutes to go in the period, Pezzetta was called for hooking and the Wings had their second man advantage of the period that had just as much success as the first.
Coincidental minors were then called to Moritz Seider and Pezzetta, both for roughing. The four on four created the desired openings as Dylan Larkin got behind the Habs but was pushed at the last minute by Jeff Petry and went barreling into Jake Allen. Allen left and was replaced by Samuel Montembeault for the minute that was left.
It was impossible to call a penalty on Larkin given the push, but the officials clearly did not like the maneuver as they called Tyler Bertuzzi on a minimal slash on the ensuing faceoff. The Habs ended the period with 47 seconds of 4-on-3 and saw Mike Hoffman ring a shot off the post before the period expired.
The second period kicked off with Montembeault still in the Montreal crease and this was an important development as it was announced that Allen would not return. The Habs were unable to capitalize on the minute of power play time to start, and then they controlled play on a great shift by Christian Dvorak and Poehling.
Unfortunately, the next shift saw Larkin break into the Habs zone and beat Montembeault from the red line. It wasn’t like Cole Caufield’s goal in Laval either, where Caufield purposely got a puck into a tiny window to score a nice goal. This was a goaltender clearly cheating and leaving a gaping hole that any pro player could have taken advantage of. 45 seconds later, an unobstructed shot from the slot from Suter also beat the Habs netminder as the Wings took the lead and the Canadiens had to feel like they simply could not allow any shots to get to their net.
Five minutes into the period, a soft penalty was called on Nick Leddy and Montreal’s power play went to work. Brendan Gallagher and Tyler Toffoli were both stopped by Nedeljkovic as the Wings completed their mission. Following this sequence, the Wings got some zone time, mostly due to Montembeault giving out big juicy rebounds, but at least he was making the saves.
The second half of the period saw another man advantage for the Habs which once again looked good. Chris Wideman, Nick Suzuki, and Hoffman being constantly in movement created openings and was what this unit sorely lacked at the start of the season. Nedeljkovic had to stand tall once again, but Detroit survived without damage and ended the second period with a 2-1 lead.
The final period began with a 2-on-1 for Josh Anderson and Gallagher, but Nedeljkovic was once again up to the task. A minute and a half later, Artturi Lehkonen almost got a breakaway but was sent crashing hard into the end boards. Clearly in pain, he got to a sitting position and sent a no-look backhand pass across the zone to Wideman, who fired home a shot off the post and in to tie the game. Lehkonen would then need to head to the locker room though he did return.
As the last ten minutes arrived, both teams were locked into a bit of a chess match as neither team wanted to commit the error that would bring about the game-winner for the opposition. It meant some low-event hockey with the exception of the Jake Evans line who continued to play hard and create scoring chances. The Habs really took momentum over the last six minutes as they cycled the puck deep in the Detroit zone, but the Wings were being patient and keeping the Habs to the outside and got the game to overtime.
During the 3-on-3, the conservative play continued and it was Evans getting the first chance that Nedeljkovic stopped. The next shift saw the puck head the other way after a risky play by Hoffman did not pay off. The 2-on-1 missed the net, but the shot sprung off the end boards and caught Montembeault way out of position for Larkin to score from a bad angle once again, this time ending the game.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Ryan Poehling
The first goal scorer for the Habs was flying on this night. It is quite easy to believe that if he had skated like this to start the season, he would have made the team out of camp. Regardless, he was also rewarded for his efforts with some power play time and some added responsibilities throughout the night.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 shot, 1 hit, 12:35 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Chris Wideman
When the season began and I saw both Wideman and Savard not play great hockey, I told myself that scratching Wideman was fine, but that Savard would come around. Mea Culpa. Savard is fine, but a signing that the Habs could have passed on. Wideman has come around, has become a stabilizing partner for young Romanov at even strength and has been every bit of the power play quarterback that was needed as he keeps the unit in movement and the opposition guessing.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, 4 shots, 1 hit, 14:05 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Michael Pezzetta
For the last decade, the mantra around the Habs has been that the prospects were expected to force their hand, and then the organization would figure out how to carve the roster space created by a prospect playing that well. What happens when that prospect was not a high pick or not an expected member of the team? I’m asking because it sure seems as though Pezzetta is accomplishing his goal of forcing the hand of management in staying up with the big club. He’s even got league officials noticing as he’s getting a bit of the Gallagher treatment in getting a little shafted with penalty calls. It will be interesting to see if he keeps this up, if the organizations’ walk will line up after years of talk. Judging by the ice time, I won’t be holding my breath.
Stats: 1 assist, +1, 1 shot, 1 hit, 4 PIMs, 8:02 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki continues to lead this team at both ends of the ice after a slower than expected start. He was not able to get his name on the scorecard, but still created plenty of chances for the Habs while still being defensively responsible as he led the team in both takeaways and created turnovers.
Stats: 4 shots, 21:44 T.O.I.
Following the game, Montreal announced that Cayden Primeau had been recalled from Laval and he will meet up with the team in Boston for Sunday’s game.