Fresh off their loss to Winnipeg, the Habs were back in action on Wednesday as they were in Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets. They struggled offensively throughout the game, ultimately falling 5-1.
Martin St. Louis opted to make a pair of lineup changes for this one. Tyler Pitlick returned to the fourth line in place of Jesse Ylonen (who scored as part of a three-point effort tonight in an OT loss for Laval in Rochester) while Chris Wideman was in for Corey Schueneman.
Samuel Montembeault’s night got off to a bit of a rocky start as barely a minute in, he turned the puck over behind his net on a miscommunication. The puck made its way to Cole Sillinger who had an open net to shoot at but he wound up catching a piece of Emil Bemstrom with his shot and it bounced wide.
Nick Blankenburg was one of two college players making their NHL debut for Columbus in this one and he made an early impact, hopping off the bench at the 4:45 mark to get a big hit in on Jake Evans. However, the Blue Jackets were nabbed for too many men on the play, sending the Habs to the power play. Eric Robinson had the best chance off a rush and if you don’t recognize that name, he plays for Columbus which tells you everything you need to know about how things went on the man advantage.
Two minutes after the penalty ended, David Savard’s clearing attempt was unsuccessful, allowing the Blue Jackets to keep it in. The puck was worked around to Jack Roslovic in the right faceoff dot and he fired a rather pedestrian shot on goal. However, Montembeault didn’t spot it and it wound up just getting past him and barely trickled over the goal line to open up the scoring.
A minute and a half after that, Robinson went in with Brendan Gaunce on a two-on-one. Montembeault got across to make the stop and was knocked over by Robinson soon after with a Montreal defender also contributing to the collision.
Columbus got their first power play with six and a half minutes remaining when Jeff Petry was called for interference on Justin Danforth with the referee standing six feet away not calling it but the official standing more than sixty feet away feeling it was penalty-worthy. Montembeault made a good stop early on Roslovic off a cross-ice pass from Patrik Laine. Seconds later, Jakub Voracek rang a shot off the post and the Habs were able to come away unscathed.
Alexander Romanov had a nice hit on Roslovic a minute after the penalty expired and that was more or less Montreal’s highlight of the period. The shots on goal were 9-4 for Columbus with the Canadiens being held without one for the final 12:46 of the frame.
Montembeault was sharp early in the second as on the opening shift, he had a big glove stop off a Zach Werenski one-timer. Columbus nearly had a two-on-one seconds later but Sillinger over-skated the puck.
Both teams then traded odd-man rushes. Brendan Gallagher opted to keep the puck on a two-on-one with Joel Armia to snap Montreal’s shot-less streak at a little over 16 minutes and three minutes later, Robinson and Roslovic had a two-on-none but the pass across wasn’t a great one.
Romanov was called for a hook on Voracek just past the nine-minute mark. Columbus’ power play looked dangerous in the first half of it although it resulted in just a single shot on goal and Armia did some nice work on the second half of the advantage to help kill it off.
Less than a minute after that penalty ended, Jordan Harris had a nice hit on Bemstrom. However, the puck remained in Montreal’s end and seconds later, Bemstrom received a pass in the slot and was wide-open but Montembeault did well to get across to make the glove stop.
A minute later, Andrew Peeke went off for interference on Josh Anderson. Ryan Poehling did well to stop Robinson’s breakaway as again, the speedy Columbus winger had the best chance on Montreal’s advantage.
Columbus had a good chance after the advantage when Roslovic set up Adam Boqvist off the rush but once again, Montembeault did well to get across to make the stop. However, he couldn’t stop them all as on the next shift, Patrik Laine’s cross-ice feed hit Roslovic’s leg and bounced in with the Canadiens struggling with their transition defence on the play.
Less than 30 seconds later, Jake Evans had a two-on-one but the pass was broken up. Seconds later, Mike Hoffman went off for slashing Bemstrom. This time, the Columbus power play was successful. A shot from the top of the right faceoff circle was deflected wide by Gustav Nyquist but the puck went right to Laine who fired it past Montembeault from just above the goal line.
The Habs got another opportunity on the power play when Gaunce slashed Harris. This time, they actually scored on it as Montreal gained control off the draw and worked it around quickly. Nick Suzuki got the puck at the point and fired it on goal where Poehling was there to redirect it past Elvis Merzlikins. It was a happy ending to a period where they once again didn’t play well although the shots were a bit closer at 12-9 for the Blue Jackets.
The Habs had a good chance to cut the lead to one as Kent Johnson, the other Michigan player making his NHL debut, tripped Petry 32 seconds in. This time, it was Roslovic who nearly had a breakaway but Suzuki got back to break it up. Once again, the power play mustered up nothing.
Anderson had a good chance just shy of the six-minute mark as he took a pass from the point but cranked it off the post. That proved costly as on the next shift, Bemstrom’s shot from the point was redirected by Sillinger. Montembeault had slid off the post to track Bemstrom’s shot and the puck went right into the spot he had vacated and into the net.
There isn’t much more to note from Montreal’s perspective. The Suzuki line had some good shifts and some line tweaking saw Rem and Tyler Pitlick play together on what could be called the fourth line with Christian Dvorak between them.
Columbus wasn’t done, however. With three and a half minutes left, Carson Meyer was stopped on a partial break. A minute later, Bemstrom kept the puck on a two-on-one with Vladislav Gavrikov and it was the right choice as he got Montembeault out of position and fired it glove side to make the final 5-1.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Nick Suzuki – He didn’t score but his line was by far Montreal’s best in the offensive zone. He made a nice play to potentially save a goal early in the third and was absolutely dominant at the faceoff dot. In a game like this, that’s good enough for the top spot.
Stats: 1 assist, -2 rating, 2 takeaways, 14/17 faceoffs, 21:19 TOI
2nd Star: Ryan Poehling – He had a fairly quiet game overall but two key plays stood out. The defensive hustle to break up Robinson’s shorthanded breakaway was quite impressive and a power play goal didn’t hurt his cause either. He was rewarded by moving up a line so in the end, it was a decent night for the youngster.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 1 shot, 6/9 faceoffs, 13:23 TOI
3rd Star: Jeff Petry – Since returning, Petry has been trying to do a bit less. While that’s not his game by nature, it makes sense right now as he tries to build back some confidence and you have to start with easier stuff first. He made a lot of smart, simple plays and complemented the Suzuki line well when he was out there with them.
Stats: 0 points, -1 rating, 2 PIMS, 3 blocks, 19:35 TOI
Honourable Mention: Josh Anderson – Against his former team for the first time, Anderson did alright. He played with good pace and had a decent chance that ultimately went off the post. He’s quieter in the offensive zone when he’s with Caufield and Suzuki where he’s used as more of a complementary player and that would be a good way to describe his performance in this one.
Stats: 0 points, -2 rating, 1 shot, 18:36 TOI