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The Canadiens entertained a visit from the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre for the teams’ second tussle of the season. A strong comeback effort by the home team fell just short as the Wings left town with a 5-4 overtime win, balancing out the Habs’ extra-time victory in their first meeting.

At times frustrating and at others exhilarating, the game certainly was not uneventful. Unusually, the Canadiens did not visit the penalty box more than their opponent, nor did they suffer any further injuries to their already-depleted lineup.

Starting lines:

Caufield – Suzuki – Monahan
Gallagher – Dvorak – Anderson
Pearson – Evans – Slafkovsky
Ylonen – Stephens – Armia

Guhle – Barron
Matheson – Kovacevic
Lindstrom – Struble


10 Thoughts

1) It was another slow start for the Habs, and it took more than ten minutes for them to get a shot. The second one, 11 minutes in, was better, with Sean Monahan trailing the play. He had a decent scoring chance and drew a penalty on the play, giving the team a chance to make up for an early Joe Veleno goal. With the second power play unit starting the man advantage, the surprise was seeing Jesse Ylonen on the ice. With Alex Newhook’s injury, Martin St-Louis’s hand was forced into finally giving the Finnish sniper a chance on the power play. The revised power play lineup couldn’t achieve much in the first half of the man advantage, though.

2) The second half of the power play, with the top power play unit on the ice, was worse, though. Juraj Slafkovsky dropped a pass back from the left-side boards, but Justin Barron stumbled, unable to control the pass. As he was falling down, he was able to swat the puck away from Christian Fischer–and directly onto the stick of Michael Rasmussen. Rasmussen dashed off, with Josh Anderson giving chase, but Allen made an easy pad save on his weak wrister. However, the rebound dropped just in front of Allen’s pads, where he didn’t see it, and Fischer, not covered by any Hab, was able to lift it up and into the net for a 2-0 lead.

3) As time was ticking down at the end of the first, Kaiden Guhle was battling for the puck in the left corner in the Detroit zone. Covering for Guhle, Anderson forgot his assignment and skated for the net, opening the door for another Detroit odd-man rush with Daniel Sprong and Moritz Seider. Johnathan Kovacevic was making the textbook play to block the pass, but Sprong had enough room to take a shot that would beat Allen for a 3-0 lead.

4) Rather than demoralizing the team, the third goal seemed to finally wake up the Canadiens, and they were exerting pressure on the very next shift. Justin Barron made a great cross-ice pass to Nick Suzuki; Ville Husso made a good save on Suzuki’s one-timer but could not control the rebound. Barron had seen the opportunity presenting itself and was driving for the net when the rebound popped out, enabling the young defender to pot his fifth of the season and narrow the gap to 3-1.

5) About four minutes into the second, Allen was called on what was at best a borderline tripping penalty, and Monahan was sent to the box for two minutes. As the Detroit power play got underway, Lucas Raymond misplayed the puck just inside the Montreal blue line and then stumbled trying to recover it. Joel Armia was there and ready, and scooped up the puck, racing across the neutral ice with Jake Evans as his wingman. Shayne Gostisbehere was back to try to stop the pass, so Armia lifted the puck into the far corner for his third goal in just nine games. Alas, Alex DeBrincat scored just 45 seconds later on the same power play to reset the Detroit lead to two.

6) The Habs offered yet another two-on-one to the Wings after six minutes of the period, as Mike Matheson passed the puck behind him in the offensive zone, but the only players there were wearing white sweaters. That could have been bad, had Fischer not taken a completely unnecessary interference penalty on Cole Caufield. And just past the halfway point, Klim Kostin had a breakaway, with only Kovacevic in pursuit. Kovacevic made an outstanding play with his stick to prevent a scoring chance, and the puck was adjudged to not have crossed the goal line when Fischer, Kovacevic, and Allen all slid into the net. Odd-man rushes were ubiquitous on the night, and particularly so into the Habs’ zone.

7) Anderson broke into the Detroit zone late in the period and made his patented drive for the net. However, he was too close to Husso to be able to take a shot, and he did not notice the presence of the other red sweaters in the offensive zone in better scoring positions. Isn’t this Anderson’s season to date in a nutshell?

8) Anderson was called for holding J.T. Compher a minute into the final period, but the Habs’ penalty killers acquitted themselves well. As the penalty expired, Ylonen jumped onto the ice on a line change, and it was only a DeBrincat hook that prevented him from getting a good scoring chance. On the ensuing penalty, Montreal’s power play finally showed its teeth, after a long stretch of ineptitude, as Suzuki one-timed a Matheson pass from the right-side hash marks, with Gallagher creating havoc in front of the net. A one-goal game, then, with almost 16 minutes remaining: yet another Montreal comeback in progress.

9) Mitchell Stephens was sent off for high-sticking later in the period, but it was Armia with the best chance, as he flipped a puck into Husso’s pads, and nearly corralled the rebound. But, ultimately, it was Gustav Lindstrom who tied up the game with four minutes left on the clock, wristing an Anderson pass into the net. The St-Louis mantra of activating defenders in the offensive zone is certainly bearing fruit–though not always of the right kind–as the Montreal defenders are leading the league in scoring.

10) The eventual overtime was a letdown by recent Montreal standards, as Christian Dvorak lost the faceoff, and the Habs were never able to gain control of the play. Suzuki did almost steal the puck at the Montreal blue line, but “almost” was as far as it got. Jake Walman put it away less than a minute into the period with a slap shot from the hash marks.

HW Habs Three Stars

First Star: Joel Armia (1g, 0a, 5 shots, +1, 15:51 TOI) was playing the way he can, the way that earned him the $3.4M AAV contract from Marc Bergevin. +1 on the penalty kill, a 67% xGF on five-on-five, and the most shots on goal. If only we could see this version of Armia every night …

Second Star: Nick Suzuki (1g, 1a, 4 shots, -1, 21:25 TOI) has been in a bit of a funk recently but tonight the bounces were going his way, with a goal and an assist. The Caufield-Suzuki-Monahan line was a big improvement from the Caufield-Suzuki-Anderson combination that St-Louis has been deploying recently. Monahan is more versatile and can be a shooting threat, freeing up some space for Suzuki. Whether this configuration will be seen again next game is really anyone’s guess, though.

Third Star: Johnathan Kovacevic (0g, 0a, -1, 0 shots, 20:16 TOI) was back to playing the defensive partner to Mike Matheson’s offensive adventurer, and the pair did well together. Kovacevic was on the ice for the Sprong 2-on-1 goal but could not really be faulted for that. 73% xGF and a 4-to-1 edge in high-danger chances confirm that he was a stabilizing presence on defence.