Alexander Semin was once again in the dog house as Paul Byron returned to the line-up, joining the fourth line. That move allowed Torrey Mitchell to slot in on the second line alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
An often under-rated team, the Arizona Coyotes were looking to out-perform the Habs, led by some excellent, young talent.
Early into the first period, the Coyotes saw their first power play of the game. The lowest-ranked power play team, coming in at 12.5%, went up against the Habs' fourth-best penalty kill (at 86.4%), and generated very little.
About halfway through the first, Anthony Duclair showed the Canadiens what a little spring in your step looks like as he danced by everyone on the ice and attempted a wrap-around. Condon stopped the initial shot, but Martin Hanzal was left alone in front of the net to capitalize on the resulting rebound.
This was the fifth straight game in which Montreal had allowed the first goal.
Four minutes later, Tobias Rieder came in to the zone with a non-threatening shot, but Condon mishandled the puck and gave up a big rebound. Shane Doan was on the doorstep, and knocked the puck in out of mid-air.
Arizona took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, despite shots being 13-5 in Montreal's favour.
Greg Pateryn once again played an impressive period of hockey, and is proving that he deserves a permanent spot in the line-up, being aggressive on the puck while showcasing his sneaky passing abilities. The quality of communication between Galchenyuk and Eller was similarly impressive, and it translated to some incredible stickwork and scoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes.
Eller made a less-impressive play early in the second, getting called for closing his hand on the puck. When Jeff Petry attempted to clear the puck on the ensuing power play, it headed right onto the stick of Oliver Ekman-Larsson who scored his first power-play goal of the year.
The Habs hit two posts as fans sat on the edge of their seats waiting for yet another comeback to begin. The top line continued to battle, with Brendan Gallagher making some great efforts to keep possession in the corners. Gallagher swung the puck out front, and Max Pacioretty comes in with a smooth backhand, netting his tenth goal of the season to give the fans the goal they desperately needed.
Mike Smith appeared to be favouring his left leg towards the end of the period, after stopping 18 of the 19 shots Montreal sent his way to that point.
Mike Condon's recent struggles were continuing as he left the ice after 40 minutes stopping just 10 of the 13 shots he had faced. While many argued that his numbers were unsustainable, I do think it is important to note that this is an athlete who made his NHL debut this season and has been called on to be the starting goaltender following an injury to the best goaltender currently in the league.
I do think Condon is a solid goaltender, and one who is pretty confident, but I fear that he's burning out a bit. The good news is that Carey Price is ready to go, and will reclaim the reins tomorrow night, getting the start in the game versus the New York Islanders.
Smith's injury was not as significant as it initially appeared, as he came back out to start the third. Torrey Mitchell, however, was not so fortunate, and after taking a bit of a tumble, he did not return to the game.
Condon headed to the bench with 2:11 left in the game, and Dale Weise got the redirect in front of the net off of a one-timer by Andrei Markov to pull the Habs to within one goal.
Unfortunately, the Habs couldn't get any closer and lost 3-2.
- Mitchell took six faceoffs: two in the offensive zone, three in the defensive zone, and one in the neutral zone. Galchenyuk, the line's legitimate centre, took ten faceoffs, all at even strength. I found it interesting that Mitchell took as many faceoffs as he did. Galchenyuk continues to be used in ways that a) don't show his creativity and puck-handling skills and b) don't help him develop into the top-line centre he is capable of becoming.
- Galchenyuk and Eller are still being given limited TOI, I'm not even sure that I need to explain why this is unacceptable.
- I am still confused as to why Weise remains on the first wave of the power play.
- If Mitchell is injured, it will be interesting to see who slots in next to Galchenyuk. With the Semin drama, do I smell a call-up coming?