After a poor effort on Wednesday, the Habs were right back on the ice at the Bell Centre on Thursday as they hosted the lamentable San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, the Sharks were also coming off a bad performance in Toronto that added to a month without a win, so both teams had reasons to be motivated on this night. Montreal played a decent first period, but the Sharks were the team that wanted it more and it showed as the night moved along. In the end, the Sharks snapped their twelve-game winless streak with a 3-2 victory.
Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Juraj Slafkovsky
Brendan Gallagher – Jake Evans — Josh Anderson Rafael Harvey-Pinard – Sean Monahan – Jesse Ylonen Michael Pezzetta — Mitchell Stephens — Joel Armia
Mike Matheson — David Savard
Kaiden Guhle — Justin Barron
Jayden Struble — Jordan Harris
1) The Habs were in complete control of the first five minutes of the period. So much so that their young defence was guilty of getting excited with the offensive momentum and they then got caught cheating offensively. At the end of the period, the Sharks were ahead 2-1 despite being outshot 11-7 in a period that had no penalties called.
2) San Jose’s first goal of the game came when Struble felt some pressure in puck retrieval and tried to pass behind the net to Harris. The puck bounced on him, and he sent it right to the slot instead. Luke Kunin was all alone as he buried his shot past Montembeault. The second goal saw Montreal’s top line standing around when Hertl was covered by both Matheson and Suzuki. Slafkovsky and Caufield were both soft in coverage and Tomas Hertl found Fabian Zetterlund in the slot who scored.
3) The Canadiens did respond as they were on the offensive for most of the period. Struble, Guhle, and Armia delivered some big hits in the period and Matheson made up his earlier blunder with a nice move in the offensive zone before finding Gallagher all alone in the high slot. The puck was one-timed by Gallagher despite having to time the shot across his body. Nice goal for Gallagher.
4) The Canadiens were in complete control of the first five minutes of the second period until a fourth line shift saw Stephens and Pezzetta get cute and cost the team momentum. At the end of the shift, Harris took the game’s first penalty which they were able to escape without further damage thanks to Montembeault’s best saves of the game.
5) After ten minutes of absolute abysmal play that allowed the Sharks to take the shot lead in the game, Montreal’s top line got a good shift going with a strong presence in the offensive zone with five minutes to play in the period. The momentum would not last as Evans’ tough night continued with a little over three minutes to play. He got caught looking at the puck as Nikita Okhotiuk in behind him, got a pass, and beat Montembeault to extend the lead to 3-1.
6) The teams exchanged penalties near the end of the period which resulted in some 4-on-4 hockey that gave the Habs some open ice to create and Matheson did that as he got a good chance on Mackenzie Blackwood.
7) The Canadiens come out for the third period inexplicably flat. San Jose was skating circles around them and winning all the loose puck battles. Totally unacceptable.
8) Anderson was lucky to get coincidental minors in a scrum with Jan Rutta near the midway mark. In the seconds that followed, Ylonen made an incredibly dumb play in creating an obvious pick that was called and negated a situation that should have been in favour of the Habs. Montreal at least got the best chance of the sequence as Suzuki got a breakaway for Blackwood’s best save of the night.
9) The Habs pulled Montembeault with five minutes to play. They won two offensive zone faceoffs and won multiple loose puck battles, notably by Monahan, Suzuki, and Slafkovsky. Two minutes into the sequence, Matheson released a one-timer from the blue line that nearly deflected off a screening Anderson to cut the lead to 3-2 with three minutes to play.
10) A minute later, they pulled the goalie again and got more offensive zone time. Slafkovsky got two good one-timers off and Caufield almost banked one home off Blackwood. They got more shots in the dying moments, but they got predictable with the point shot from Matheson and the best chances were blocked before they got to Blackwood, ending their comeback attempt.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Samuel Montembeault
The Habs got a good first five minutes and a good last five minutes in this game. They were no-shows for the rest and remained in this game simply because Montembeault made enough saves to keep them in the game longer than they deserved.
Stats: 32 saves on 35 shots, .914 save %, 3.23 GAA, 55:47 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Mike Matheson
Much like Josh Anderson up front, Matheson is guilty of a long line of head-scratching plays on a nightly basis. He’s also guilty of many excellent plays that gets the crowd out of their seats, so he ends up being a crowd favourite. The good plays provide promise of so much better from both players, but the much better is irregular. On this night, Matheson produced one of the nice plays, so he gets a nod in this segment even if there were also many plays that were bad. In a game where the team really didn’t deserve three-star nominations, we’ll give a nod to the player that actually produced.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, even, 7 shots, 26:56 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Nick Suzuki
If his line was mostly a no-show in Philly on Wednesday night, they were the only line that showed any sort of regularity in this one. It makes sense though because they were by far the most skilled line on the ice, so they were likely the only line that could get away with not going all out on this night. They end the night with just a hand on the Matheson goal, but they had many chances that just wouldn’t go in, especially in the final five minutes.
Stats: 1 assist, even, 2 hits, 2 shots, 22:10 T.O.I.
Following the game, the Habs returned Emil Heineman to AHL Laval. They now have an open roster spot even after Harvey-Pinard was activated off injured reserve earlier in the day.