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After a disappointing outing on Saturday against Vegas, the Habs were looking to get back in the win column on Tuesday against Los Angeles.  They were able to come back late to force overtime but that’s as close as they got as they fell 3-2.

While Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson were both listed as game-time decisions, both were able to suit up.  Dominique Ducharme shuffled up his top three lines (while leaving the fourth line intact from last game which were as follows:

Hoffman – Suzuki – Toffoli
Anderson – Dvorak – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Evans – Armia

The first few minutes of the first period could be described as low-event.  Five minutes in, the shots were one apiece with Joel Armia having the best chance when he came off the left wing and drove the net hard but his shot just missed.

The Habs got a big test soon after when Jake Evans was sent off for tripping Blake Lizotte.  The penalty kill has been lousy lately but they were able to survive their first test although Alex Iafallo was left alone on the first wave, allowing him to get a good shot off that Jake Allen was able to stop.  On the shift following the power play, Los Angeles put the puck in the back of Montreal’s net but considering the net was lifted off its moorings and the puck pushed in from below the goal line, clearly it didn’t count.

Just before the midway mark of the period, Nick Suzuki created a dangerous chance when he intercepted a soft clearing pass behind the Kings net.  However, he fanned on the shot and nothing came of it.  Ben Chiarot then started firing, picking up shots in consecutive shifts including one that saw him rush in from the blueline to get a decent shot off that Calvin Petersen stopped.

He’d be heard from again, however.  With a little over five minutes left, Armia’s harmless-looking shot from the outside missed the net with the puck bouncing right to Artturi Lehkonen.  He wasn’t able to bury the fortuitous bounce but he kept at it and eventually sent a pass to Chiarot who had once again crept down from the blueline.  Chiarot’s first shot was stopped as was his second.  The rebound went to Lehkonen who got it past Petersen but not Olli Maatta who stopped it from going over the goal line.  His clearing attempt, however, went right to Chiarot who was now at the side of the net and this time, Chiarot was able to get it in to open up the scoring.

Brett Kulak made a nice defensive play with just over two minutes left, breaking up a dangerous centring pass in the slot.  That sent the Canadiens the other way and eventually, Tobias Bjornfot fired the puck over the glass and out of play, sending Montreal to the man advantage.  The first wave had some good puck movement and a couple of good shot attempts but couldn’t score and the second wave did nothing.  While that was a disappointing end, the Habs still had the lead after 20 minutes while holding a 13-8 shot advantage.

Early in the second, Tyler Toffoli was sent in on a two-on-one with Nick Suzuki after Suzuki feathered a perfect one-handed pass over.  Toffoli opted to hold for the shot (which looked like the right decision) but his shot was stopped by Petersen.

A minute later, the Kings went back to the power play when Michael Pezzetta tripped up Bjornfot.  The best chance of the two-minute sequence technically was from Suzuki whose end-to-end rush late in the advantage was impressive but he couldn’t score.  However, the Kings came back the other way and Bjornfot fed Brendan Lemieux at the offensive blueline; he skated in with plenty of room with David Savard sagging in coverage and beat Allen with a perfectly placed high wrister short side to tie it up.  The goal came just six seconds after the power play ended.

Los Angeles controlled the play after the goal although they weren’t able to get a lot of shots through although that changed in the second half of the frame.  Suzuki took advantage of a neutral zone turnover at the 12-minute mark to skate in on Petersen but his shot went just wide.

Soon after that attempt, the Habs announced that Cedric Paquette was out for the remainder of the game but did not disclose the reason.  With Dvorak and Anderson not 100% healthy (plus Brendan Gallagher believed to still be playing through something), the timing for any sort of injury is hardly ideal.

Allen then was called upon to make his best save of the night and perhaps his season.  Andreas Athanasiou found Phillip Danault alone at the side of the goal but Allen was able to stretch out just enough to get a skate on it.  The Kings rang the rebound off the post seconds later.  They had extended zone time that shift which led to an icing.  After gaining control off the draw, that led to more extended zone time and an eventual Chiarot hooking penalty on Dustin Brown.

The best chance of the ensuing power play was both created and stopped by Savard.  Matt Roy’s point shot was blocked and Savard tried to clear the puck to the side.  However, it caught Allen’s pad and headed right for the goal line but Savard was able to get a stick on it in time to keep it out and the Habs killed the rest of the penalty.  Los Angeles held a 17-5 shot advantage in the period but were only able to get the equalizer.

They needed very little time to get the lead to start the third though.  Dvorak won the opening draw back to Savard but Savard meekly poked at the puck.  That allowed Alex Iafallo to jump in, get the puck, blow by Savard on the rush, and beat Allen with a shot that quite frankly should have been stopped.  Six seconds in and the Habs were trailing; the goal set a new Kings franchise record for the fastest goal to start a period.

A little before the four-minute mark, Evans had a step around Alex Edler and tried to deke around Petersen but the netminder got a pad on it as Evans was bringing it back to the forehand.

Things then got stupid.  Pezzetta retaliated for something that Lemieux did, drawing a penalty; Lemieux was called for the flop which made it four-on-four.  After that stint ended, Pezzetta followed Lemieux – who clearly wasn’t willing to fight – and eventually hit him, earning himself another penalty (Lemieux’s dive wasn’t called this time).  It’s the type of penalty trouble that Pezzetta gets into too often in Laval and it was only a matter of time before his emotions got the better of him yet again.  The Habs killed it off and once Pezzetta got back to the bench, his night was rightfully over as he was stapled to the bench for the rest of the game with a stat line of more penalty minutes than minutes played.

Alexander Romanov had a big hit on Rasmus Kupari near the end of the penalty kill which gave the Habs some energy; Gallagher had a good chance off the rush on the first post-kill shift but just missed.  On the next shift, Gallagher drew a high-sticking penalty on Mikey Anderson, sending Montreal back to the power play.  The first unit had some zone time with nothing to show for it and the second unit spent most of their time going back to collect the puck in their own end.

However, while they didn’t score on that power play, they got the equalizer soon after.  Evans received a pass at the offensive blueline from Lehkonen in the defensive zone.  He then proceeded to undress Anderson (the defender, not Montreal’s winger) with an inside-outside move before sniping one past Petersen to tie it up.

The Habs nearly took the lead on the next shift when Petersen kicked out a juicy rebound off Jeff Petry’s point shot that went right to Hoffman.  The winger decided to quickly get the shot off instead of taking the split second to aim a little more and Petersen was able to get a piece of it.  Less than a minute later, Suzuki hit the post on a wraparound attempt.

Montreal had a chance to seal the victory with a late power play when Danault was sent off for hooking Dvorak.  It would have been somewhat of a fitting way for the game to end had the Canadiens scored with their former centre taking a penalty on his effective replacement but it wasn’t meant to be.  The power play was dangerous with Hoffman, in particular, quite trigger happy but they couldn’t take the lead.  Nevertheless, it was a good bounce-back period for the Habs who held the 13-7 advantage in shots.

That took the game to overtime where we got to see if Ducharme’s troops would employ the rope-a-dope strategy once again.  They did exactly that in the first minute, controlling the puck the whole time and not even attempting a shot.

Things opened up quickly after that, however, as Toffoli and Josh Anderson both had shots off the rush.  Iafallo then had a strong scoring chance off a won defensive zone draw where he hustled down the ice to get the shot off; Dvorak was then stopped on the ensuing two-on-one the other way.

Unfortunately for the Canadiens, it wasn’t meant to be.  Los Angeles eventually gained control and got set up in the offensive zone.  Adrian Kempe went for a long skate with the puck and eventually got Evans to go for the steal.  He missed, opening up a lane for Kempe to drive the net and stuff it past Allen for the win.

Petersen made 33 stops for the victory while Allen kicked aside 31 of 34 shots in the losing effort.  Neither team was successful with the power play with Los Angeles going 0/4 and Montreal 0/3.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Ben Chiarot – There are nights when Chiarot tries to play aggressively and it backfires.  This was not one of those.  He picked the right moments to jump in offensively while having a decent night in the defensive end.  With Jeff Petry struggling right now, Chiarot needs to pick up the slack and he did in this game.

Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 6 shots, 2 hits, 24:54 TOI

2nd Star: Jake Evans – I’m being picky here but I dropped him down a peg for the mistake in overtime, one that shouldn’t be made late in the shift.  Beyond that, Evans was great.  His goal was one for the highlight reels, he was strong defensively, aggressive in the offensive end, and good at the faceoff dot.  If he plays like that regularly, good things will come.

Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 3 shots, 7/13 faceoffs, 18:39 TOI (career-high for a regular season game)

3rd Star: Artturi Lehkonen – He nearly had the opening goal had it not been for Maatta and with Evans showing some spark as the game progressed, it seemed to get Lehkonen going a bit as well.  He’s never going to be a consistent offensive producer but he needs to provide more than just strong defence (which he had in over four minutes of penalty kill time) every now and then.  He did that in this one.

Stats: 2 assists, +2 rating, 3 hits, 13:27 TOI

Honourable Mention: Mike Hoffman – When scorers aren’t scoring, they can often go quiet.  That wasn’t the case from Hoffman who was noticeable basically every time he was on the ice and he had no hesitation shooting.  It’s something Montreal has surprisingly lacked this season which is why Hoffman firing away all game stood out in a good way.

Stats: 0 points, even rating, 7 shots, 2 takeaways, 21:32 TOI