With a second year nowhere near contention winding down, Wednesday’s Habs game had all the makings of a slaughter as the Habs visited Long Island. Montreal made some strange recalls to give Laval a chance to make the playoffs. On the other side, the Islanders were quite literally in a must-win scenario to save their own playoff chances. This slaughter is not what happened as the Canadiens played their role of not being very sharp, but the Isles weren’t much better. It was a low-event game that was hard to watch with a 4-2 final score in favour of New York.
Without many options to consider, the coaching staff flanked Nick Suzuki with Mike Hoffman and Joel Armia on the team’s top unit. Jonathan Drouin centred the second line next to Sean Farrell and Denis Gurianov. The third line featured Jake Evans, Rem Pitlick, and Brendan Gallagher. Chris Tierney and Michael Pezzetta were joined on the fourth line by Joel Teasdale who was making his NHL debut. On the blue line, Mike Matheson and Justin Barron were the top pair as Joel Edmundson and Chris Wideman rounded out the top-four. The bottom pair was Frederic Allard and Johnathan Kovacevic. Samuel Montembeault started the game in goal.
It was a tentative start for the Habs as the urgency with which the Isles started the game was notable, even if it did not amount to any dangerous scoring chances in the early going. As the four-minute mark came about, the first real chance saw Anders Lee strike the post as the shots remained 1-0. With approximately eight minutes expired and the shots 5-0, play finally started to pick up which started with Montembeault completely misplaying a dump-in that allowed the Isles a full shift in the offensive zone with the Habs scrambling.
Montreal finally woke up as Drouin sent in Gurianov on a partial break before Farrell’s hard forecheck created a second shot for the line.
With 9:33 to play, coverage was confused as Brock Nelson entered the zone and was given the high slot. He skated in and buried his shot to open the scoring with Barron and Matheson covering the flanks.
Drouin’s line was the only line skating early as they once again came close to scoring a few moments after the goal. With six minutes to play, Teasdale jumped all over a Pezzetta rebound and smoked the post, denying himself his first career NHL goal.
The Canadiens worked hard and caught up to New York in shots before they were finally rewarded for their efforts. With 2:22 to play, Montreal would tie the game when Evans picked the pocket of Noah Dobson who was trying to exit his own zone. Evans skated to the slot before dishing it to Pitlick for a one-timer to tie the game.
The Islanders wasted little time in responding when Edmundson failed to clear the zone twice, leading to Zach Parise tipping a Jean-Gabriel Pageau shot. Montembeault made the save but the rebound was available to Hudson Fasching who simply tapped it home.
The second period belonged to the Islanders as they dominated the shots on net by an 18-6 margin. Montreal was stuck in their zone for two minutes which ended with an Edmundson interference penalty that saved a goal. New York’s power play had been terrible all season long and this was no exception as they never got near Montembeault.
Sorokin’s first decent save in the period once again came after five minutes had expired in the period, this time off an Allard point shot. The Islanders finally extended their lead right near the midway point of the period. The fourth line was defensive chaos and Dobson put them out of their misery with a point shot that was deflected home by Nelson.
The second half of the period saw the Isles continue to control play, though it must be said that the entirety of the game to this point was disorganized and sloppy, for both teams.
After Montembeault made a nice save on a 2-on-1, Gallagher was guilty of a brutal knee on Fasching. The Islanders were back on the power play. Did I mention their power play sucks? Well, it did again as they got a shot and more zone time, but with 41 seconds to go in the penalty, Suzuki beat Simon Bolduc to a loose puck that was just in front of Sorokin. When he got there, he simply chopped with one hand at the puck and had it skip over Sorokin to make it 3-2.
Barron took a high stick with three minutes to play and the Canadiens squandered their only advantage of the night to end the period.
The third period continued with the same rhythm as the first two periods, that is to say very little. With their season on the line, the Islanders were making safe plays all over the ice, including the offensive zone. This resulted in a rather boring period. I believe there was an approximately eight-minute segment of play without a shot on goal.
Finally, with 4:45 left in the game, Hoffman became Captain Tank (even more so than before) with a cross-checking penalty. 45 seconds later, Lee scored a power play by another deflection of another point shot to really end the game. Montreal pulled Montembeault late but couldn’t muster up much to try to make a late push.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Sean Farrell
Farrell was extremely visible in the first period where his forechecking alone was able to create some great scoring opportunities for his two linemates. Closer to the end of the period, he took some shots and looked composed in doing so. He was less noticeable in the second period, but I felt like the coaching staff limited the line’s overall ice time since they were far from the bench and no one on the line is known for their defensive abilities.
Stats: 3 shots, 13:42 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Nick Suzuki
Suzuki looked at the loose puck while shorthanded and thought to himself that it mattered little since he was playing shorthanded all night long anyway, right? It wasn’t a great game for Suzuki, but as per usual, he managed a few plays to be noticed, none better than his one-handed goal that will be a highlight for a few weeks for sure.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 shot, 20:08 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Joel Teasdale
Including a rookie playing his first game without scoring in this segment should tell you all you need to know about this team on this night. Teasdale was defensively scattered at times, but he delivered some defensive body checks, was strong on the forecheck, made good, safe passes, and hit the post. Decent debut for the kid, who I am admittedly biased toward from his playoff run with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
Stats: -2, 2 hits, 10:18 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Rem Pitlick
Pitlick had himself an excellent first period as he forechecked hard, worked himself to a partial break, and finally got the Habs’ first goal. Then he disappeared and was not seen for the rest of the game.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 1 shot, 17:59 T.O.I.