It was a battle of the backups on Monday night, as the Canadiens de Montreal welcomed the Vancouver Canucks to the Bell Centre for their second meeting of the season. The 'Nucks opted to start Jacob Markstrom in place of the recently faltering Ryan Miller, and with Carey Price still on the IR, the Habs again turned to Mike Condon to man the crease.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
Montreal was looking for a bounce-back game after being trounced 6-1 by Colorado on Saturday night. The hope was the team could get out to a strong start, against a Canucks team that has been generous in allowing opposing goals against of late. Ryan Miller went 0-4-1 in his last five, while allowing more than three goals per game. Even though Miller would sit this one out, the middling Canucks seemed a prime candidate to offer the Habs a chance to get back on track.
Of course, these are the same Canucks that ended Montreal's historical winning streak to start the season with a 5-1 drubbing. Both teams looked sloppy coming out of the gate, but it was Vancouver that capitalized early with Cracknell tucking the puck into the net for his third of the campaign.
Later in the first, Brendan Gallagher would bloody Daniel Sedin with a high stick. The double minor would see Jared McCann pot another goal for Vancouver, and it appeared the Habs were in trouble.
There was some confusion in the second period after a harmless looking Daniel Sedin shot from the point, but upon further review, Mike Condon had let in what appeared to be a backbreaker. The deflected shot found its way under the goalie's arm and lodged itself under the crossbar to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead.
When the Canucks were awarded a powerplay shortly thereafter, it appeared the game was all but over. Then the reliably underrated Lars Eller carried the puck over the opposing blue line, and wired the puck past Markstrom to get the Habs on the board shorthanded.
Captain Max Pacioretty would follow Eller's act by stuffing his own rebound past the Canucks' netminder, bringing the Habs to within one by the end of the second. The Bell Centre crowd suddenly roared back to life, and some strong sequences on the power play suggested that momentum had swung back in favour of the Habs.
The Canadiens continued to author a comeback story in the third, pushing the pace of play and continuing their inspired work on the powerplay. As he has all season, Tomas Fleischmann would provide a tidy counterpoint to the failings of Alexander Semin, flying up the wing and unleashing a hard wrister while Nathan Beaulieu crashed the net. Flash tied it up with just over three minutes remaining in his 600th career NHL game.
That sent the Habs to overtime for the third time this month. What's that they say about charms?
Fleischmann gained the zone and fed a streaking P.K. Subban, who opted to pass to an open David Desharnais on the right side rather than shoot. The latter took that feed, and blasted home the game winner to complete the comeback.
After a bit of back and forth in the extra frame, the Habs finally got their first OT win of the season. They showed a lot of gumption by fighting back from a bad goal, and a deep deficit, against a team that had their number last time they played.
- The big storyline of the night was the possible end of Semin saga. It looked like Semin was benched in the second period, only to have him return to take a bad penalty in the third. Twitter exploded with condemnations of Therrien, but if you take a penalty like that, you deserve a seat. It's entirely possible that was the death knell for Semin in Montreal.
- The so-called rough stretch the Habs have experienced these past few games has seen them go 4-1-2 in November. It hasn't always been pretty, but there have been convincing wins against a strong teams like the Islanders while riding the backup.
- Speaking of Mike Condon, he's the first to admit that he's looked human these past few games. It's not unexpected that Condon would see a dip in his play, but provided he doesn't let the games get away from him like he did these last two, the Habs can continue to manage. All the same, the sooner Carey Price comes back, the better.
- Tom Gilbert got his first point of the season on Lars Eller's opening goal. That leaves only Greg Pateryn without a point, and if he stays in the lineup I don't think it will take him long.
- P.K. Subban is just doing everything right. His athleticism is unparalleled, but unlike years past, he's not in nearly as many situations where he has to rely on his unique skillset to save a play. That's a credit to both the player and the team.