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The Habs kicked off a road trip out West on Wednesday after some brutal injury news to Harvey-Pinard, Xhekaj, and Harris forced some changes to the lineup for the team. They played a strong game for the first forty minutes in Anaheim and then let Samuel Montembeault save the day in the third. They were able to escape with a 4-3 victory, but they likely won’t want to carry the third period into their next game. 

Habs lineup:
Alex Newhook — Nick Suzuki — Brendan Gallagher
Cole Caufield – Christian Dvorak – Juraj Slafkovsky                                Tanner Pearson — Sean Monahan — Josh Anderson
Michael Pezzetta — Jake Evans — Jesse Ylonen

Mike Matheson — Justin Barron
Kaiden Guhle — Johnathan Kovacevic
Jayden Struble — Gustav Lindstrom 

Samuel Montembeault 

10 Thoughts

1) The Habs got an early man advantage and while it was not a great power play, Slafkovsky kept a broken play alive in the final moments. This led directly to Pearson finding Newhook open in the slot as the penalty expired. Newhook buried a nice top-corner shot, using a charging Radko Gudas as a screen, to beat John Gibson roughly six minutes in.

2) On the very next shift, some great board work by Pezzetta and Evans created a two-on-one as Ylonen found a streaking Guhle who made it 2-0 early.

3) The Habs outshot the Ducks 15-12 in the first and the story of the period was truly winning puck races and battles. These two details were what really allowed the Habs to dismantle the Anaheim defensive structure for much of the period. The Ducks turned the table for the last five minutes to make the shot totals closer than they should have been.

4) Montembeault was not very busy until the final moments of the first period, but he made a couple of awesome saves to preserve the 2-0 lead after the first. He was solid in the second, though credit goes to the team as team defence was much improved in the period. He was bombarded in the third. He made an unreal glove save on a two-on-one before finally allowing the tying goal on a nice play by the Ducks. Overall, an excellent game by Monty.

5) The second period started much like the first started: with the Ducks all over the Habs. The result was a Slafkovsky penalty and an Anaheim goal four seconds later.

6) The scoring continued as the Habs bounced back before the two-minute mark of the second period. An absolutely monster shift by Gallagher allowed a whole shift to take place in the offensive zone. Then, the puck got to Suzuki who made a great pass to the middle where Matheson accepted and immediately fired home to restore the two-goal lead.

7) Five minutes later, Kovacevic lost a physical battle to the front of the net and Ylonen over-compensated. Ylonen’s play vacated a Duck in the slot who received a pass and put it home five-hole.

8) Struble’s first game went about as expected. He spent the first few shifts trying to do a little too much and taking himself out of position. He quickly settled down and played a pretty good first period after those shifts. The rest of the game was pretty much without event, not a bad thing for a kid’s first NHL contest.

9) With eight minutes to play, Barron got lost in coverage and ran into Gallagher. Frank Vatrano made an unreal snipe with space being created by the author of the first two goals in Mason MacTavish and this game appeared destined for yet another overtime finish for the Habs.

10) Instead, the Habs ensured a regulation victory with another strong play by Jake Evans. Evans won a puck battle in the defensive zone and then a race to the puck in the neutral zone. The result was a race to the offensive zone where Evans held up just enough to open a passing lane to Newhook. Newhook accepted a cross-ice pass and beat Gibson with 3:20 left at 4-on-4 and the Habs called it a night.

HabsWorld 3 Stars

1st Star – Samuel Montembeault 

This isn’t one of those games where the team played terribly but the goaltender saved the day. The Habs actually played a decent game and the difference in the shot total was likely explained by the Ducks pressing in the third while being behind on the scoreboard. However, the timing of the big saves made by Montembeault were so unbelievably key that he has to be the first star of the game for this one. 

Stats: 30 saves on 33 shots, .909 save %, 3.04 GAA, 59:09 T.O.I. 

2nd Star – Brendan Gallagher 

I always say that I try to have very even opinions about all things Habs, but that I always hope that when I do have negative opinions, I’m proven wrong. So far this season, Gallagher is proving me wrong. He may never return to his production from a few seasons ago, but he has returned to being the player who drags teammates and linemates into the war with him. Whatever line he’s on, it is productive, and gets significant time in the offensive zone because he just never stops battling while on the ice. 

Stats: 1 assist, even, 2 shots, 16:18 T.O.I. 

3rd Star – Alex Newhook 

This could have easily been Jake Evans too, but I think Newhook’s overall importance to the team as a winger is often overlooked. His speed backs off defenders and opens the ice which is why I think he’s been a great addition to Suzuki’s wing. This will also free up Caufield and Slafkovsky to find themselves on Kirby Dach’s wings next season. On this night, Newhook finished plays which has also been lacking in Montreal (See Anderson, Caufield, Slafkovsky for examples). His two goals on the night including the game winner were key. 

Stats: 2 goals, +2, 4 shots, 19:12 T.O.I. 

Honourable Mention – Nick Suzuki 

Suzuki is first and foremost a cerebral player. This can lead to fans thinking he lacks urgency and engagement when his mind isn’t making the right reads in the right moments. When he is making the right reads, he plays a game like this one where he creates time and space for everyone around him. On this night, it was directly responsible for the Matheson goal.

Stats: 1 assist, even, 1 hit, 1 shot, 21:17 T.O.I.