Having lost three of their last four games, the Montreal Canadiens rolled into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York for a showdown with the Islanders. With Carey Price back between the pipes for the first time in three weeks, the Habs were hoping for a reversal of recent fortune.
Price, of course, was not the only member of the team returning to action. Alexander Semin also re-entered the lineup, playing on the fourth line as a result of Torrey Mitchell's injury.
The Habs certainly got off to a promising start, as Jeff Petry jumped into the play to score the game's opening goal just under three minutes into the contest; the result of a nice backhand pass from Semin that Brian Flynn was able to ring off the crossbar for a rebound.
Brock Nelson answered for the Islanders later in the period, tying it at one apiece by pushing a loose puck in the crease past Price. Michel Therrien challenged the call on the ice on the basis of goaltender interference, but upon review by the on-ice officials the goal stood up.
The game did not remain tied for too long, however. A mere 35 seconds after Nelson's marker, Tomas Fleischmann slapped one past Jaroslav Halak unassisted, to restore the Habs' one-goal lead.
A great rush courtesy of Alex Galchenyuk led to another goal for the Canadiens in the opening frame, Having the puck dropped to him, Nathan Beaulieu wired a shot past Halak from the slot, improving the lead to two. That would be it for Halak on the evening, as Thomas Greiss would relieve him in the second period.
Travis Hamonic, who has been in the news lately as a result of a trade request, cut the Canadiens' lead to one with a laser from the blue-line just seconds into the frame.
15 minutes later Jeff Petry struck again, this time unloading a bomb on the power play that beat Greiss with traffic in front, bringing the score to 4-2.
Nelson's second goal of the night made the game close again in the third period, but it would not be enough as Brendan Gallagher sealed the deal with an empty net goal as time expired, with the Habs winning by a final score of 5-3.
For a game in which they were out-shot 36-28, the Habs played a couple of good periods. The first and second both saw the Canadiens post a Corsi-for-percentage over 50, with 60.5% and 53.3% respectively.
It was not until the third period that things started to look worrisome as they began to sit on their lead, surrendering 11 shots versus their own total of six. With that being said, taking three penalties in the third didn't help, and for a large portion of the game the Canadiens looked strong at even strength.
The talking point heading into Friday night's matchup was, as expected, the return of Price. Coming off an injury that saw him absent for a little longer than anticipated, Price played very well, all things considered, though at times he looked obviously uncomfortable, which will have been somewhat disconcerting for fans. Turning aside 33 shots for a .917 SV%, all in all it was another night at the office for the reigning MVP.
Another bright spot for the Habs in this one was Petry, who looked in control throughout the game. With over 24 minutes of ice-time, no Montreal skater played more than Petry on Friday and for good reason: the Michigan-native was second only to Greg Pateryn in 5v5 shot-attempts-for percentage despite playing nearly eight minutes longer. Petry, of course, also came away with two goals on the night, including the game winner on the man advantage.
Returning to the lineup himself, Semin had a good outing while playing primarily with the fourth line, recording a notable scoring chance in the second period but failing to put the puck in the net. With the best possession numbers on the team against the Islanders, it will be interesting to see where Semin will slot into the lineup on Sunday night — if he does at all.
Other notables from Friday include Galchenyuk and Beaulieu, who each looked impressive throughout the game. Galchenyuk continued to create offence despite limited minutes. Meanwhile, Beaulieu, who notched two points, played fairly heavy minutes: only Petry and Subban played more among Habs blue-liners.
Considering it was the second game of a back-to-back on the road, there wasn't too much to complain about in this game. The Habs were opportunistic with their scoring, chasing Halak from the goal after only 20 minutes and not taking it much easier on Greiss.
Though far from their best outing of the season, they did enough to get two points and will now have a days rest before they meet the Islanders again on Sunday, this time from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre. Puck drop for that game is 7:00 PM EST.