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The Habs took a trip to the Big Apple for a Thursday night contest. The Rangers were red-hot and the Canadiens were coming off a big win. Montreal was also playing in their fourth game in six nights, so the deck was pretty stacked against them. Despite these factors and the eventual negative results, I think this was a rather strong game for the Habs with very pointed pockets where they let the game get away from them and the Rangers took full advantage of the openings allowed. In the end, it was a 7-4 loss but was one that should not be regarded with the same reaction as Sunday’s loss to the Blues. 

Montreal’s Lineup

Cole Caufield — Nick Suzuki — Juraj Slafkovsky
Tanner Pearson – Jake Evans — Josh Anderson
Joshua Roy – Alex Newhook – Joel Armia
Michael Pezzetta — Brandon Gignac — Brendan Gallagher 

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

Samuel Montembeault 

10 Thoughts

1) The opening eight minutes of play was an impressive display of discipline within the team structure for the Habs as the Rangers forechecked relentlessly, but the visitors remained strong and were able to weather the early storm without giving up scoring chances. The Canadiens were so structured that they even dismissed an early penalty to Struble for high sticking. 

2) The most interesting line of the period was the Gignac line. They were completely hemmed into the defensive zone on a few shifts but then looked dominant for a few others. Gignac thought he had scored the game’s first goal but the official quickly waived it off on an obvious high stick by Gignac that created the scoring chance. 

3) Montreal did end the opening period up a goal despite being down 10-9 in shots. The goal came off the stick of Evans who scored in consecutive games. However, it was Pearson’s strong play on the puck deep in the offensive zone that allowed the play to develop as Evans was able to jump on a rebound to finally beat Jonathan Quick who had an excellent period for the Rangers. 

4) The Habs came out firing in the second period, but New York had clearly changed their tactics as they targeted the Canadiens physically on every shift. Much like the first period, Montreal stayed strong in their structure and continued to take the game to the Rangers with the Evans line being particularly strong to start the period. 

5) It was another questionable play by Jacob Trouba against Guhle that finally rattled the focus of the Canadiens. The Rangers then got a breakaway that was turned away by Montembeault before Newhook’s loose coverage in the defensive zone opened the door for Chris Kreider who accepted the Mika Zibanejad slot pass to one-time a shot and even the game. 90 seconds later, Guhle covered Will Cuylle but on the wrong side of the puck. The result was Ryan Lindgren putting a puck on net and an easy redirect by Cuylle. 

6) The Habs were given the chance to settle the game down with a power play, but it was the Rangers who took advantage with Mika Zibanejad firing one home. Montreal challenged for goaltender interference but lost. The Rangers weren’t done as they took advantage of the power play that ensued. An Artemi Panarin point shot got tipped by Kreider about three feet ahead of Montembeault to make it 4-1. 

7) After four minutes of looking like deer in headlights, the Habs finally turned it around in the final four minutes as Caufield delivered a strong forecheck that created an opening for an absolute rocket by Slafkovsky that made it 4-2. Suzuki then drew a penalty for a power play. The Habs didn’t score, but it was a good advantage before Pearson took an interference penalty that created a 4-on-4 to end the period. 

8) The Rangers essentially ended the game five minutes into the third period when Panarin dropped a pass to Vincent Trocheck in zone entry. Trocheck just fired the puck from far, but it fooled Montembeault and restored the three-goal lead. 

9) Caufield was able to respond for the Habs on the man advantage as he tipped a point shot by Matheson that went off the end board and came back off Quick’s pad before going into the net. However, New York responded immediately as Xhekaj got caught pinching without support in the neutral zone. The 2-on-1 created saw Panarin deliver a sublime saucer pass over a sprawled Kovacevic for the Kreider hat-trick. 

10) The crazy scoring continued as Kaapo Kakko absolutely undressed Kovacevic before sneaking a shot through Montembeault’s five-hole before Caufield responded with his second goal. It was a more vintage Caufield goal as he attacked the high slot and released a rocket that simply beat Quick.  

HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars

1st Star – Juraj Slafkovsky 

It was perhaps a step back at 5-on-5 for the top line on this night, but Slafkovsky’s presence and confidence on the man advantage allows the Habs to have such a diverse attack that it’s clicking all over the ice. Slafkovsky’s goal was an absolute beauty on this night, so we’ll focus on the positives for this one. Oh, and check out the TOI. Think everyone else on the team is noticing this kid coming into his own? 

Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, 19:59 T.O.I. 

2nd Star – Tanner Pearson 

This was Pearson’s best game in a long time as he was the driving force behind the second line being the most positively regular line for the Habs on the night. Evans did get a goal, so the line was able to get on the board, but they were also a positive force in attacking the puck all night long. 

Stats: 1 assist, even, 4 shots, 12:50 T.O.I. 

3rd Star – Cole Caufield 

Gignac likely deserved a nod too, but Caufield scoring two goals and being the creator on Slafkovsky’s goal makes it undeniable that Caufield had to be a star in this game for the Canadiens. 

Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist, +1, 6 shots, 1 hit, 20:36 T.O.I.