The Habs were fresh off snapping their prolonged losing streak on Saturday and hoped to carry that momentum against the Seattle Kraken who were visiting the Bell Centre on Monday night. The Kraken had cooled off a bit in December but have since returned to their early season ways as they entered Monday’s contest on a four-game win streak. This returned the team to third in the Pacific with plenty of games in hand on both Calgary and Edmonton chasing them. Two other notes that didn’t bode well for Montreal were the Kraken’s impressive 12-4-2 road record and the Habs opting to make Monday’s contest a retro jersey night. All these omens were a sign of things to come as the Canadiens simply could not keep up with the Kraken’s speed in the first period and lost the game by a 4-0 score.
Slightly surprising was Martin St. Louis’ decision to alter his roster after finally winning a game on Saturday. The top line was unchanged as Nick Suzuki remained with Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach. Ditto for lines two and three as Juraj Slafkovsky, Josh Anderson, and Christian Dvorak were the second line, while Jake Evans was joined by Joel Armia and Evgenii Dadonov on the third line. Jonathan Drouin was flanked by Michael Pezzetta and Mike Hoffman, who returned to the lineup in the place of Anthony Richard.
The blue line stayed the same as Joel Edmundson and David Savard formed the top pair, Johnathan Kovacevic and Jordan Harris were the second, and Arber Xhekaj and Chris Wideman were the third. Jake Allen was surprisingly injured at practice on Sunday which meant Samuel Montembeault started and was backed up by emergency recall Cayden Primeau.
The game opened with Seattle attacking and getting some additional chances from Montembeault not being very efficient in rebound control. Shots were 7-1 for the visitors after five minutes, but the Habs’ defensive structure was able to survive the early onslaught.
6:54 in, Pezzetta got caught watching which created a mini-2-on-1 down low. Vince Dunn got his pass through Edmundson and Tolvanen got his shot through Montembeault to open the scoring.
On the next shift, Savard took a hooking penalty sending the Kraken to the man advantage. The Habs survived it though they were able to get good zone time without creating a scoring chance.
The second half of the period started with a second consecutive penalty, this time to Wideman for hooking. This time, the Kraken extended their lead when Andre Burakovsky went across the box to Daniel Sprong who one-timed it through Montembeault who got there in time but still didn’t get the save.
Montreal’s first good scoring chance came with eight minutes to play when Slafkovsky delivered an excellent pass to Dvorak to send him in on a partial break. The Habs failed to create momentum and the Kraken were back on the attack. With 5:40 to play, Dunn fired from the blue line and Yanni Gourde tipped it home to make it 3-0.
Slafkovsky accepted a tip pass by Anderson to get in on Martin Jones but his attempt to go five-hole failed. The period mercifully ended with a 19-6 shot advantage and a 3-0 score for the Kraken.
The second period started with Seattle in the offensive zone before Slafkovsky’s forecheck caused a turn and led to the Evans line getting an entire shift in the offensive zone as it was easily the Habs’ best shift of the game up to that point.
With 4:10 expired, Sprong got his stick up on Wideman sending the Habs to their first power play. The Habs were lucky to get it as Wideman took a shot and then Pezzetta took a shot on Dunn after the whistle. The advantage did not create a single scoring chance.
Montreal did carry momentum after the advantage through to the end of the period. The Evans line was the most dangerous and the Slafkovsky-Anderson duo looked dangerous too. Unfortunately, every time Drouin or Hoffman made a play, it died on Pezzetta’s stick, and for some reason, the top line was also not quite clicking and looked disjointed.
In the end, Anderson, who was having a great period, hit Bjorkstrand in the face with his stick which resulted in a four-minute double-minor for the Habs forward. The Habs killed the initial 1:22 to get out of the period still down 3-0.
The third period got underway with the Kraken taking advantage of what was left on their power play to really threaten Montembeault as they looked to end this game. Montreal once again survived the sequence before the top line finally woke up and got a great shift in the offensive zone. The Kraken got away with a few blatant penalties on the sequence but that didn’t stop the Canadiens who quickly regained momentum when Xhekaj freight-trained a few opponents which directly led to a flurry of chances for Anderson and Slafkovsky.
The final ten of the game started with yet another Habs penalty as Harris was sent off for high-sticking. They killed off the penalty and just when the Canadiens were starting to attack, Armia got suckered into another penalty. I say suckered because Armia was on the forecheck and Dunn clearly turned into the check giving Armia two options, to get off the puck or to finish a check that looked bad. Dunn’s teammates came in as it ended with a Ryan Donato and Evans fight. Yes, Jake Evans got into a fight. Wideman was also assessed a misconduct on the play. 40 seconds later, the Kraken were caught with too many men on the ice.
The 4-on-4 sequence was uneventful before the short advantage for the Habs looked decent though it did not score. Seattle then hemmed the Habs into their zone until there were only three minutes to play when Caufield turned the table and fed a great pass to Suzuki who was robbed by Jones.
The Canadiens vacated the net with three minutes to play and got a few good looks that they could not convert to actual shots on net. The Kraken were able to get on the board again with a Matty Beniers empty netter that made it 4-0 and they held onto the shutout from there.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Juraj Slafkovsky
Slafkovsky was the only player on the roster that moved his legs for the entire 60 minutes on this night. He was responsible for the only two chances for the Habs in the first period. The Evans line and Anderson joined him in fighting for the team in the second period, but Slafkovsky remained the most engaged player.
Stats: -1, 2 shots, 2 hits, 14:37 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jake Evans
I’ve been very harsh on Evans so far this season and the last three games have shown that I was right. Evans has been excellent defensively since the start of the season. No surprise there as it’s his primary contribution to the roster. However, I felt like for the last two seasons prior to the start of this season, he was much more competitive offensively and was able to create some chances. Not so much this year until the last handful of games when that part of his game has come alive, and he suddenly looks like the Evans of old. I hope he’s here to stay.
Stats: 4 hits, 16:32 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Cole Caufield
It feels weird to feature Cole when he didn’t produce but after cheating on the offensive side of the puck for much of the first period, he really cleaned it up afterwards and was the most dangerous player on the ice for the entire third period.
Stats: 4 shots, 3 hits, 17:39 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Josh Anderson
Anderson was asleep for most of the first period before joining young linemate Slafkovsky in generating chances throughout the second and third periods. He took a costly penalty at the end of the second but was once again front and centre on a few chances in the third. Not a high bar, but it wasn’t a great game for the team.
Stats: 1 shot, 2 hits, 16:10 T.O.I.