The Habs were back in action for a rare Sunday night contest at the Bell Centre. They hosted the Nashville Predators who were also playing their second game in as many nights while welcoming back David Savard to the lineup. The show was severely lacking all night due to both teams being tired as a sloppy game went the way of Nashville who were able to use their power play to skate away with a 2-1 victory in what was low-event hockey for an entire 60 minutes.
Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Juraj Slafkovsky
Sean Monahan — Jake Evans – Josh Anderson
Jesse Ylonen – Christian Dvorak – Brendan Gallagher Michael Pezzetta — Mitchell Stephens — Joel Armia
Mike Matheson — David Savard
Kaiden Guhle — Justin Barron
Jayden Struble — Johnathan Kovacevic
1) The first period saw both teams force the officials to be quite busy. It was blatant penalties in succession that needed to be called. Roman Josi was first, but then Slafkovsky lacked patience on the power play as he coughed up the puck and then took a penalty. The rest were also all obvious calls as the period ended with three penalties apiece.
2) On their first man advantage of the night, the Preds made Gallagher pay as Filip Forsberg sent a shot wide that was redirected by Colton Sissons who beat Allen to open the scoring.
3) In the last moments of the first period, Guhle’s point shot fooled everyone and hit the crossbar for Montreal’s best chance of the period. The Preds held an 11-9 shot advantage which felt generous to the Habs as the Predators controlled the better part of the period.
4) If both teams were sloppy and not very good in the first, they weren’t much better in the first half of the second period. Play continued to be sloppy and both teams didn’t have much in terms of cohesion. Mental mistakes were rampant all over the ice, so even scoring chances were few and far between.
5) Sissons scored his second of the night as the Habs were caught standing in their zone. Slafkovsky lost a rare defensive zone battle that led to a point shot and Sissons was all over the rebound. The goal seemed to wake up the Canadiens though as they played a much better second half of the period. A strange bench minor against Forsberg sent the Habs to the power play which cost them some momentum because it was that kind of night.
6) The Habs thought they had closed the scoring gap when Armia came around the net and tucked a rebound by Saros with under a minute to play. Unfortunately, the play was available to Armia because Gallagher crashed into Saros like a bowling ball and the goal was rightfully disallowed. Evans would have none of this decision though as he did score before the end of the period to make it a one-goal game heading to the third period. He followed his own pass to the slot, found a loose puck, and beat Saros with a backhand.
7) It was another slow and sloppy start for the third period. The only difference is that this time, it was the Habs who seemed to step out of their stupor first as they took control of the second quarter of the period. Unfortunately, it was once again the power play that cost them their momentum as the advantage started with a Nashville breakaway. Allen made his best saves of the night on the sequence.
8) After the advantage, the top line finally came to life as Caufield almost tipped home a point shot and Slafkovsky looked like his more recent self in puck pursuit and control.
9) On a night when the top line wasn’t at its finest, the lack of depth up front became incredibly clear. When the team’s attempt to tie up a game features Jake Evans and Josh Anderson (why was Ylonen on the bench?), the team doesn’t have a ton of chances to get it tied up.
10) The lack of precision in everything the Habs did on this night once again reared its ugly head in the last minute as the passes were so sloppy that they never could get anything off the ground to even attempt to threaten Saros. Sad way to finish a sad effort.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Jake Evans
Evans should not occupy this space very often, but on a night when he has the lone marker, and the top line was not very dangerous, he gets the nod. Evans was his usual self as a player who creates little but at least stifles the opposition’s creativity.
Stats: 1 goal, +1, 1 hit, 2 shots, 16:03 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Jake Allen
Allen did not have to make a long list of stellar saves as the Habs ended up outshooting the Predators, but he did make a few important stops, most notably on a shorthanded breakaway in the third period, that gave the Habs a chance to tie it.
Stats: 30 saves on 32 shots, 2.05 GAA, .938 save %, 58:32 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher was the only player on the entire roster that I felt had a chance to will this team to a point on this night. It wasn’t always pretty as he was responsible for the disallowed goal, but at least the perception of effort was there on his part. More than I can say for most of the team (note the important use of the word perception… I’m sure many were, in fact, trying to generate something).
Stats: even, 4 PIMs, 1 hit, 10 shots, 14:57 T.O.I.
Following the game, the Habs announced that Tanner Pearson will miss the next four to six weeks with an upper-body injury. He’ll likely go on injured reserve, opening a roster spot for another forward to be recalled from Laval.