We knew before this series started that it wouldn't be a walk-through; the Sens are by all accounts a better team than their seeding suggests. We also knew that Craig Anderson was going to be tough to score on; he's been very good all year. But I highly doubt that any of us would have been able to predict the script of last night's tilt.
It took a while for the scoring to open and if you were watching the game, you were definitely surprised that it wasn't Montreal. Despite heavily out-shooting and out-chancing the Senators from the outset, it was Eric Karlsson that opened the scoring for the Sens on a play that he both started and finished. I'm pretty choked about the Karlsson goal. Not only did I get a ton of Twitter flack for the whole #KarlssonSucks thing, but it was entirely preventable. Karlsson skated through the neutral zone with impunity at a rather slow pace, avoided a weak stick check attempt by Gionta, worked a give-and-go with Kyle Turris and tipped it past Price to finish it off. I know Karlsson is good, but he was made to look better than he is on this one. The Habs need to play tighter and more physical with him throughout the remainder of the series.
While Karlsson opened the scoring late in the first, you couldn't help but feel it was just a matter of time into the second before the Habs would answer, due to the fact that they were massively outplaying the Sens. They continued their onslaught in the second period, but just couldn't get a shot through Anderson, who looked Halakian to say the least. It took 13 minutes into the second before Rene Bourque took a PK Subban feed behind the net and walked out to roof a backhander over Anderson and tie the game.
Then Eric Gryba decided to be a complete piece of shit. I'm sorry if you disagree with my choice of words, but those words are far more tame than those I was shouting when it happened. Raphael Diaz threw what can only be described as a suicide pass to Eller through the defensive zone, and Gryba siezed the opportunity to deliver a shoulder check directly to the face of Eller. To make matters worse, Eller seemed to be out cold before hitting the ice and landed directly on his face.
Now, I'm a little bit pissed off at Diaz for throwing such an ill-advised pass up the middle, but it's absolutely no excuse for Gryba. Eller clearly fell into the definition of a defenseless player and Gryba CLEARLY got nothing but face with his hit. If this is not something that yields a suspension then I really don't know what is; let the wheel of justice spin. Gryba was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct and here's hoping the Montreal Police arrest him and summarily execute him without trial.
Ok... I'm joking, but Eller was an absurd +12 Fenwick and +13 Corsi before being taken off on a stretcher, and had not been showing any signs of slowing down. Clearly the loss of the Great Dane was big in this game and we'll see how big it is for this series. We are still relatively in the dark when it comes to the severity of his injuries, but unofficial reports have mentioned a broken nose and some missing teeth. I'd think it safe to say that you can probably tack on a concussion to that, which is obviously not good. We'll have to wait to see how long he'll be out but surely he won't be in the lineup for tonight's game.
At the risk of making this article too long for anyone to read, I'm going to keep discussing this hit. Paul Maclean called it a "hockey play," which it most assuredly was not. The Ottawa Sun decided that a photo of Eller lying in a pool of blood, coupled with the headline "First Blood Sens" is in good taste, which it definitely is not. This hit is the exact thing that needs to be taken out of the game and to trivialize it for the sake of selling newspapers is disgusting. How anyone could think that hit, or making puns about it is ok is beyond any absurd contention that I have ever heard in my entire life.
The end result was a five-minute powerplay that the Habs did manage to take advantage of. Brendan Gallagher did his usual stellar work by going to the net and directing a Tomas Plekanec feed past Anderson for his first ever playoff goal and point, making the score 2-1 Habs. Alex Galchenyuk drew an assist on the goal to get his first playoff point as well; these kids are damn good, but more on them later. The Habs drew a 5 on 3 later on in Gryba's major penalty, but failed to convert as Anderson continued to be brilliant. I should mention that the 5 on 3 was given after several opportunities ignored by the referees. I don't like blaming losses on refs, but there was some relatively poor officiating in Montreal last night.
The third period is where the shit just hit the fan. Jakob Silfverberg tied the game on a slapshot that fooled Carey Price, one that he surely should have stopped. Then Mark Methot scored through a pretty tough screen to put the Sens up 3-2. Then, after a Gallagher goal was disallowed because of "interference" by Brandon Prust, Guillaume Latendresse scored a goal essentially by pushing Subban into Price. Why Gallagher's goal was disallowed I can understand, only if the ref calls a penalty. Prust was not given a penalty and it seemed to me as if Anderson did a little bit of embellishing to boot. Alas, my opinion on the officiating has no bearing on the final score; 4-2 Senators.
I suppose we can try and look at the positives coming out of this game. P.K. Subban was absolutely brilliant all night. He picked his spots to go for a rush, and when he did it was beautiful. His fancy stats aren't terribly flattering at +7 Fenwick and +6 Corsi, but still good. On top of that, he was brilliant at both ends of the ice and nothing short of spectacular skating through the neutral zone. Look for a damn fine playoff performance from 76, as we expected.
As mentioned, the youngsters also had a pretty damn good night. Gallagher netted his first ever playoff goal and posted +10 fenwick, +13 Corsi. Galchenyuk drew an assist on the Gallagher goal and went +12 Fenwick, +16 Corsi. These kids are going to be huge in this series and for the future of the Montreal Canadiens, in case you didn't already know.
In summary, the Habs dominated possession, fired 50 shots on net, but still lost. They even dominated the Sens offensively at one point while killing a penalty. The silver lining is that I don't think Anderson can be that brilliant in every game of this series (knocking fiercely on wood). If the Habs come out tonight the same way they did last night, they will win.
I also feel that the Habs at times were thinking about quantity versus quality in terms of shots. Look for the Habs to put up a similar game tonight, but maybe with less shots. I don't think we should get wrapped up in being down 1-0, as this game was the exception to the rule. The Habs should have won, and the loss itself was not the biggest loss in my opinion. The loss of Lars Eller was the real tragedy of the night and let's all hope he's back on the ice quicker than I expect him to be.
I dedicate this recap to Larry. We love you and we all hope you're back as soon as possible.