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As the Habs kicked off their final week before the All-Star Break, they tried to buck a recent trend of playing down to opponents they are supposed to beat. This time, it was against a rival in the Ottawa Senators that have had their number in recent years. But they were unable to beat that trend as they were flat for most of the game. The Sens weren’t much better and were beatable on this night, but the Canadiens were let down in a big way by their power play as they dropped the game by a 4-1 score after another effort that can only be described as unacceptable. 

Montreal’s Lines

Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Juraj Slafkovsky
Tanner Pearson – Jake Evans — Josh Anderson                                    Joshua Roy – Sean Monahan – Joel Armia                                        Michael Pezzetta — Rafael Harvey-Pinard — Brendan Gallagher 

Mike Matheson — David Savard
Arber Xhekaj – Kaiden Guhle
Jayden Struble – Johnathan Kovacevic

Jake Allen 

10 Thoughts

1) The Habs welcomed back Pearson (who was activated from IR earlier in the day), Kovacevic, and Xhekaj. Kovacevic had a decent night as he was the scorer for the Habs. Pearson was rather invisible which was disappointing. Xhekaj had a decent night even though he was guilty of a dumb penalty in the third period that was reminiscent of his over-aggression which was a problem early on this season.  

2) The teams traded penalties early and Anderson stood out in the 4-on-4 sequence before the first of many horrible power play attempts for the Habs. It was so bad that the Senators ran an offensive faceoff play while shorthanded and Slafkovsky and Matheson were caught cheating to allow Ridly Greig to score. 

3) 41 seconds later, it was a big juicy rebound given up by Allen off an Artem Zub shot with the Canadiens staring at the puck as Jake Sanderson cut in and rifled home the rebound to make it 2-0 after the first period. 

4) Ottawa took a penalty in the first minute, but Montreal’s power play was forcing plays that weren’t there and the results weren’t good as a result.  Soon after, they got another opportunity thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko playing a stick on the ice to his teammate but that was cut short when Matheson was called for tripping. At 4-on-4, Shane Pinto cherry-picked behind Montreal’s defenders. Both Struble and Roy did not pick him up and Claude Giroux found him with a stretch pass that sent him alone where he beat Allen.

5) Roy made a sweet move to attack the middle of the zone. As is often the case with young players (See: Slafkovsky) he opted to pass after the nice move instead of wiring it home himself. On this pass, it was Monahan who fanned on the open net. Caufield was also stopped multiple times in the period as he was getting stopped or missing the net on plays that Joonas Korpisalo appeared to be well behind on. 

6) The power play would get two more chances in the second period to end the segment of play 0-for-5 on the man advantage. Some momentum with the man advantage would have been an important shift in this game, but the Habs simply couldn’t get it together. 

7) Coach St. Louis tried to jolt the lineup as Anderson started the period on the top unit with Suzuki and Caufield. Anderson got really physical, and it worked as Caufield was robbed once again by Korpisalo after a brilliant pass by Suzuki on the first shift of the period. Suzuki was being double-shifted as he also appeared with Slafkovsky and Gallagher. 

8) After six minutes in complete control, Xhekaj was guilty of a rather stupid penalty in the offensive zone against Giroux as he checked him when the puck was nowhere near the play. Guhle then took another penalty when he slashed a stick that broke. The 5-on-3 that ensued was killed by the Habs, and more importantly, it did not cost them too much momentum once the play returned to even strength. 

9) Montreal finally broke through with eight minutes to play. Another strong physical play by Anderson got the puck with possession in the offensive zone. Caufield got it to Kovacevic who benefitted from Anderson’s screening to put one home from the blue line to get the Habs on the board. 

10) The Canadiens pulled the goalie with four minutes to play only for Caufield to hit a post. Mathieu Joseph then found the empty net to end the game. 

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars

1st Star – Cole Caufield 

Strange game for Caufield who had more than his average in terms of scoring chances. Usually opportunistic, Caufield was robbed and/or fanned on his many chances on this night. At least he’s still getting those chances, right?  

Stats: 1 assist, -1, 1 hit, 6 shots, 19:34 T.O.I. 

2nd Star – Kaiden Guhle 

Guhle was engaged physically all night long and was also a Hab that got a few scoring chances in. In a game where the team was hard to watch, I thought Guhle wasn’t as terrible as the rest.  

Stats: -2, 4 hits, 3 shots, 21:50 T.O.I. 

3rd Star – Josh Anderson

Likely paid too much for his inconsistent efforts, Anderson still has games like this where he stands out and creates space for the players around him. He was specifically intense in the third period where he was a beast on the forecheck and was able to be the key player on the only Habs goal of the night, even if he didn’t get an assist on the play.

Stats: even, 5 hits, 14:47 T.O.I.