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The Habs looked to hit the holiday break on a high note as they travelled to Dallas on Friday to take on the Stars.  They started off well but penalty trouble came back to bite them as they fell 4-2.

Martin St. Louis made one lineup change from the group that won in Arizona on Wednesday night as Michael Pezzetta returned, taking the place of Evgenii Dadonov who was a healthy scratch.  However, the forward lines were all changed up with the team lining up as follows:

Drouin – Suzuki – Armia
Caufield – Dach – Hoffman
Slafkovsky – Dvorak – Anderson
Pezzetta – Evans – Richard

Edmundson – Guhle
Harris – Kovacevic
Xhekaj – Wideman

Montreal’s power play has been lousy all season long but lately, it has been even worse so things couldn’t have gotten off to much worse of a start than the Habs getting an early momentum-killing advantage.  That’s how it went, however, as Mason Marchment was called for a trip on Cole Caufield a little past the two-minute mark.

With the power play, the first unit did nothing and the second one was quiet aside from a couple of attempts from Mike Hoffman.  The Canadiens put out the fourth line to prepare for the post-advantage shift but Jordan Harris sent a long pass from the defensive zone into Dallas’ end.  Pezzetta pushed it ahead for a rushing Jake Evans who beat Jake Oettinger for his first goal of the season.  Technically, it counted as a power play marker as well.  Three minutes later, Evans drove the net but just missed as he had some jump early.

After that, the play settled down for a big chunk of the period.  Both teams had a few looks but Allen and Oettinger were up to the task.

With around 7:30 left, the Stars started to pressure, getting the Habs on their heels.  The end result was some sustained zone time and eventually, a penalty to Montreal as Hoffman pushed the player he was checking into Allen.  Dallas had the puck in Montreal’s end for most of the advantage but couldn’t do much with it; the Canadiens technically had the best chance as Evans set up Pezzetta on a two-on-one but Oettinger got across.  That said, the play looked offside anyway.

The Stars had a good post-power play shift with Tyler Seguin’s shot fooling Allen enough for the netminder to kick out a juicy rebound.  However, Joel Kiviranta wasn’t able to get there in time and the Habs played it away to help preserve their advantage heading into the break.  Shots on goal in the first were 9-8 for Dallas.

The fourth line was back at it early in the second.  Pezzetta and Evans were once again in on a two-on-one, this time with Pezzetta leading it.  He opted for the shot and it was the right decision as he went top-shelf on Oettinger to double the lead.  When you consider that Anthony Richard had the lone goal in Colorado, that’s three straight goals for the fourth line which is something you don’t see too often.

Three minutes later, Evans had another strong chance in close off a centring feed from Jonathan Drouin from behind the net but Oettinger was square to the shot to make the stop.  Not long after that, the Stars started to pick up their game as they had several shifts in Montreal’s end with extended possession.  They didn’t get many shots or chances off those shifts but the momentum was certainly starting to turn.

With a little more than six minutes left, Drouin went off for tripping Wyatt Johnston.  This power play was much more dangerous as Dallas’ zone time was generating some good looks.  Eventually, one of them went in when Roope Hintz redirected Jason Robertson’s pass to the front of the net to beat Allen and get the Stars on the board.

Hintz then turned around and gave the Habs a good chance when he went off for roughing Joel Edmundson on his next shift.  Or, at least, it was supposed to be a good chance.  Instead, Dallas had the best look but Ty Dellandrea was stopped on a three-on-two early on and neither power play unit could get anything going as the pressure from the Stars was stifling them early and often.  Nevertheless, the Canadiens still had the one-goal advantage after 40 minutes.  Shots on goal in the second were 13-8 for Dallas.

The third period didn’t start as well as the second as Hoffman went off for a high stick on Colin Miller just 92 seconds in.  Less than a minute later, the game was tied as Robertson took a shot from the middle of the ice that was redirected by Hintz and in.

Three minutes later, Chris Wideman was called for knocking the net off its moorings.  He was quite displeased with the call, justifiably so as Luke Glendening pushed him in that direction.  Hintz sent a pass to Jamie Benn on a two-on-one early but Allen made the blocker save and the Habs survived the kill.

I’m going to highlight a Cole Caufield chance just past the nine-minute mark of the period.  It wasn’t the most dangerous but let’s just say it stood out as the Habs didn’t muster up much in the frame.  That proved costly.

With six and a half minutes left, Pezzetta took an offensive zone tripping penalty on Miro Heiskanen.  You can probably guess what comes next.  Harris turned the puck over in his own end and it went to Johnston.  His first shot was blocked but he buried the second to give Dallas their first lead of the game.

Hintz was then stopped on a breakaway with three minutes left as Allen did his best to give Montreal a chance.  However, even when he was pulled for the extra attacker, they couldn’t get anything going and with 17 seconds left, Kiviranta went post and in for the empty-netter.  Dallas picked up their first win of the season after trailing in the first period while they outshot the Canadiens 14-8 in the final frame.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Jake Allen – This one wasn’t on him.  He was quite sharp at five-on-five and each of the three power play markers were either tipped or the initial shot resulted in a change of direction.  Another strong performance from the veteran.

Stats: 3 GA on 35 shots, 58:32 TOI, 3.08 GAA, .914 SV%

2nd Star: Jake Evans – Finally, he gets on the board.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort in the past but it’s just nice to see him get one on the goal column.  Evans had some pep in his step all game after the early goal with the fourth line being particularly effective in this one.

Stats: 1 goal, +1 rating, 3 shots, 5/18 faceoffs, 13:03 TOI

3rd Star: Michael Pezzetta – It was his first career multi-point game and it’s disappointing that the penalty he took will overshadow that somewhat.  I won’t harp on him much about it though as he has done better lately at staying out of the box.  Aside from that one play, it was a very effective game for the gritty winger.

Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 2 PIMS, 2 shots, 4 hits, 7:47 TOI