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The Canadiens headed up the 417 on Saturday for their last visit to the nation’s capital. This time, what was at stake is not a playoff spot but a fifth-overall draft position in this summer’s entry draft. The Senators entered the game one point ahead of the Habs and with a marginally better record in the past ten games. Tank or no tank, the coach and the players start each game intending to win it, as meaningless as the game may be. With Kaiden Guhle and Arber Xhekaj both injured, would the Canadiens have enough defence to hold off Ottawa?

As it turned out, defence wasn’t really foremost in anyone’s game plan. The Senators recorded 44 shots on net, and while the Canadiens held them off in regulation, they ultimately claimed a shootout win. A loss for the Habs, their ninth consecutive against Ottawa, but it greatly improves the likelihood of them drafting fifth overall, which is not a bad thing.

Montreal’s Lines

Caufield – Suzuki – Slafkovsky
Gallagher – Newhook – Armia
Ylonen – Evans – Anderson
Pezzetta – Dvorak – Harvey-Pinard

Matheson – Savard
Harris – Kovacevic
Struble – Barron


10 Thoughts

1) The first period saw a lot of attacking hockey with few whistles and faceoffs. Things got serious, though, when Joel Armia was called for high-sticking at 8:15. The Senators were able to get their power-play formation set up, but, a minute later, as Jake Sanderson fumbled a pass at his feet at the blue line, Mike Matheson snatched the puck and used his quickness–ranked fifth among all defencemen by the NHL data portal–to break away from the Ottawa defenders. As he approached Joonas Korpisalo, he was able to keep the Ottawa goaltender guessing and finally tapped the puck in behind Korpisalo to score his second shorthanded goal of the season. 62 points on the season is no mean feat for a defender, and Matheson is now ninth in the league in scoring among defencemen.

2) It was barely two minutes later, though, that the Habs were called for a penalty again, as Nick Suzuki was called for roughing Ridly Greig. Keep that name in mind … This time, the Senators controlled the puck better, and Ottawa’s super-pest Brady Tkachuk was there in front of Cayden Primeau, just to the goaltender’s left. Sanderson got him the puck, and while Jordan Harris tried to push Tkachuk away, by that time he had already tapped the puck into the net. Martin St. Louis used a coach’s challenge, but the video review concluded that there had been no goaltender interference, so the game was now tied at 1-1.

3) It’s worth noting that Joel Armia book-ended a busy period with scoring chances. The big winger had an early shot on Korpisalo and then tried to follow that up with a wraparound attempt. And then, at the end of the period, he had another shot on Korpisalo, followed by an attempt on the rebound. Alas, none of those quite made it to the back of the net,

4) Cole Caufield put the Habs back in front at 1:37 of the second period. Caufield snatched the rebound from a Jayden Struble shot in front of the net, took a few strides in, and then tucked it under the left pad of Korpisalo to put the bleu, blanc, et rouge back ahead at 2-1. Caufield is no one-trick pony now, and he’s constantly finding new ways to score.

5) Just after the seven-minute mark, David Savard was called for tripping Greig–the Ottawa centre drawing a second penalty. The penalty killing unit did better this time in protecting the front of the net from the Ottawa power play setup, but the Senators still managed to score, on a rush this time. Claude Giroux carried the puck in with the clock running down and passed it back from behind the net to Shane Pinto, who one-timed it past Primeau to tie up the game.

6) The Canadiens were not ready to concede, though, and five minutes later, as the Habs were controlling the play in the Ottawa zone, Matheson made a pass from the blue line to Caufield, and the young sniper lifted the puck from the top of the faceoff circle over Korpisalo’s shoulder to regain the lead once again, at 3-2 this time.

7) Greig secured yet another power play for the Senators at 19:05 of the second, as Josh Anderson was called for interference. The Habs were able to kill the first 55 seconds until the end of the second period, but 47 seconds into the third, it was Tkachuk again. This time he got the puck maybe six feet to the right of Primeau; Matheson was busy covering Pinto in front, and Savard was further out, so Tkachuk had all the time in the world to make the shot, and he casually lifted it over Primeau’s shoulder and into the top of the net to tie the game up again. And Greig? Three drawn penalties, three power-play goals on those penalties. Not a bad night for the young centre, even if he didn’t score himself.

8) Alex Newhook got into the action with a somewhat lucky goal with just over four minutes remaining, as he attempted to pass the puck to Joel Armia in front of the net. The puck hit the skate of Jakob Chychrun, who was battling Armia in front of the net, and bounced in to give the Habs a late lead that GM Kent Hughes likely didn’t want to have.

9) With Korpisalo out of the net and on the bench, the Senators piled on the pressure, and finally managed to beat Primeau with a Thomas Chabot tip with 65 seconds remaining–the fourth of four Ottawa goals scored with a man advantage. That tied up the game, after a heavy 20-7 Ottawa shots advantage in the third period.

10) The ensuing overtime was unquestionably exciting, with more shots and scoring opportunities than is usual in regular-season overtime, but neither team was able to score and claim the second point. The shootout was even more challenging, and ultimately Batherson was the only one of the six shooters that was able to beat the goaltender, claiming the shootout victory and the two points for Ottawa.

HW Habs Three Stars

First Star: Cole Caufield (2g, 2a, 6 shots, +1, 17:30 TOI) not only scored twice but might have easily had a hat trick with a bit of good fortune. On top of that, he played yet another defensively responsible game, showing that he is much more than what his reputation might have caused people to expect.

Second Star: Mike Matheson (1g, 1a, 2 shots, +1, 26:21 TOI) had the highlight reel play of the game with his shorthanded goal. With his quickness, he is able to beat the defenders, but his puck handling also fooled Korpisalo. 62 points is firmly in the Larry Robinson territory, and he may well reach Andrei Markov’s best-season mark of 64 yet.

Third Star: Joel Armia (0g, 0a, 3 shots, +1, 18:37 TOI) had the best scoring chances of anyone bar Caufield, but this time he was not able to capitalize on those opportunities–nor did he get any credit for Newhook’s goal. But Armia continues to be a changed man since his return to the lineup in December.