The Habs were back on the road on Thursday as they travelled to Detroit to take on the Red Wings. While they gave up the lead in the third, they were able to overcome it with a 3-2 overtime victory.
Martin St. Louis shook up his top six group as he looked to get his offence going while Cayden Primeau got a rare start between the pipes. The team lined up as follows:
Newhook – Suzuki – Anderson
Caufield – Dvorak – Slafkovsky
Pearson – Monahan – Gallagher
Pezzetta – Evans – Armia
Matheson – Barron
Guhle – Kovacevic
Xhekaj – Harris
1) Before getting to the game, let’s talk about the line changes. Yes, Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki play well together but if the coaches want to shake things up, there’s only so much they can do if they want to keep the Monahan line intact and keep Caufield and Suzuki together. Eventually, one of those two things has to change. Splitting those two up makes some sense in theory as they’re trying to get that ‘second’ line going.
2) While we talk about Josh Anderson needing to get a goal, Mike Matheson needed one just as badly after a couple of particularly rough nights in his own zone. The line changes paid some early dividends with Newhook skating in on the wing and he made a nice pass back to Matheson who had time and space to beat James Reimer clean and made no mistake. Maybe this shakes him from his fog. Had Caufield been in his usual spot on that wing, it’s a blind backhand pass that probably doesn’t even get attempted let alone connect but with Newhook being a lefty on his natural side, he could see that opening develop.
3) First periods have been a big problem for Montreal lately but they looked a lot more composed in this one. An early penalty to Jordan Harris had them on their heels but they got through that and largely shut things down from there. Detroit had just two shots in the final 13 minutes of the period with the Canadiens playing a much better positional game. We haven’t seen a lot of that lately.
4) After a slow start to the second, it felt like the Habs were playing with fire with a pair of early penalties, especially with Detroit having a good power play. However, on the second kill, Suzuki’s breakaway helped stop the bleeding. Yes, James Reimer got a piece before it went off the post but it rattled the Red Wings briefly, allowing Montreal to restore some confidence that was lacking to that point.
5) Anderson used his speed to get around Jake Walman midway through the second, drawing a penalty that should have been a penalty shot. On the ensuing advantage, Sean Monahan got away with a blatant one when he flipped Moritz Seider’s stick away, eventually creating the opportunity that saw him score, potting a rebound past Reimer. However, it was correctly called offside, stopping the Habs from scoring on a goal that shouldn’t have counted due to a penalty on a power play that never should have been there in the first place had it been called a penalty shot. A fitting end to an odd sequence, I suppose.
6) Michael Rasmussen helped get Detroit on the board late, driving the net unobstructed from the side boards (never a good sign defensively) before his shot beat Primeau, hit Christian Fischer’s glove, and went in. After video review where it looked like it had a shot at coming back, the call was upheld; it hit the glove and wasn’t directed in by the glove (a small but notable distinction). This wasn’t a challengeable play which is why the Habs weren’t shorthanded after the goal stood.
7) A late power play in the second didn’t yield much of anything but there was a bit of carryover time left. Everyone knows where Suzuki’s desired shot comes from with the man advantage and the Habs found a way to get him that shot where he comes down from the point. While the power play has been a bit more creative at times this year, this time, one of the ‘old reliable’ plays worked.
8) Suzuki played a role in the next goal as well, just that it was one for Detroit. He thought he had support down low and tried to make a quick pass to get a zone exit going. He didn’t, however, and it went to J.T. Compher. He put a perfectly placed shot just between Primeau’s shoulder and the bottom of the crossbar. As good as that shot was though, that’s one Primeau will want back.
9) The Canadiens had a lousy first two minutes of overtime but once Matheson drove the net in the third minute, they settled in. That same shift, Suzuki was stopped on a breakaway while Caufield managed to draw the ever-so-rare ‘goalie gets called for holding the stick penalty’ that we see maybe once a season.
10) On that man advantage, it looked like the Habs were trying to force the Suzuki play a bit too much early on. Even with more room to operate with Detroit working a triangle, it was nice to see them pivot away from that, trying Caufield’s side instead. Smart choice, too, as he buried the winner after skating toward the middle of the ice.
HW Habs 3 Stars
1st Star: Mike Matheson – He needed a bounce-back game in a big way. He got it with this one. Offensively, he had the opening goal while also helping to set up the winner but defensively, he also had a much better performance than he had in his past couple of outings. This was the Matheson of last season making an appearance at the right time.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1 rating, 5 shots, 27:56 TOI
2nd Star: Nick Suzuki – I could easily go with Caufield here who had the winner but Suzuki had the big chance shorthanded in the second that stabilized the penalty kill, scored the go-ahead goal in the third, and, of course, had a hand in the winner as well. His line had more success at five-on-five than Caufield’s trio as well so he gets the nod.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 4 shots, 22:32 TOI
3rd Star: Cayden Primeau – It wasn’t an overly busy night for him but he was steady. That trait becomes a bit more impressive considering it was just his second game of the year. It’s hard for goalies to stay ready when they hardly play so this was a bit of a tough spot he was being put in. He made a few big stops and while he probably wants Compher’s goal back, he certainly earned himself a win, likely extending the three-goalie situation in the process.
Stats: 2 GA on 29 shots, 1.87 GAA, .931 SV%