Your first clue that the game wasn't going to end well for the Canadiens should have been that Andrew Hammond was making his first career start in nets for the Senators. For some reason, when a rookies first anything comes against Montreal, it means only bad things, and Wednesday night in Ottawa was no exception.
Image credit: HockeyStats.ca
Usually those bad things are all about the rookie playing really well, but on this night it was bad injury luck. On his very first shift of the game, Alexei Emelin went in to the boards awkwardly after contact with Mark Stone, appeared to injure his shoulder on the play and was done for the night. This would form a rather unsettling trend for the rest of the game.
The teams took turns hitting the post during the first, most notably Brandon Prust, who managed to find iron while staring at a wide open net. Hammond's first period in the NHL was one in which he had to tap his posts a little, but also had to make some big saves, including a partial breakaway for Max Pacioretty.
Shortly after P.K. Subban finished serving a minor penalty in the second, Milan Michalek cashed in on a mad scramble in front of Dustin Tokarski's goal, and the Senators went up 1-0. Not to be outdone, Andrei Markov sent Max Pacioretty in alone off the ensuing face off, and the latter finished with one of his patented snipes to even things up in short order.
There were a number of healthy runs taken by the Senators in the game, particularly on their forecheck, but nothing overly exciting until good old Eric Gryba decided to put his two cents in. He once again went after Lars Eller, with a chicken wing this time, and narrowly missed connecting with Eller's face. Eller wasn't injured on the play, but in the aftermath Brandon Prust dropped the gloves with Mark Borowiecki, and would have to head to the room himself, as the Habs appeared to have lost their second body of the night.
Prust would evenually return, but the third body to head to the room on the night was rather concerning. P.K. Subban made a huge block while killing an Alex Galchenyuk penalty, and he was hobbled as it got him right in one of the less protected areas of the foot. Habs fans everywhere held their breath, as Subban would leave the bench and head straight to the dressing room.
With Subban gone, The Senators went to work, and Erik Karlsson fed an unbelievable slap pass to Jean Gabriel Pageau in front to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. What was particularly painful about watching that play executed was that he had tried something similar earlier in the game, but was picked off by Subban.
Habs fans were finally able to exhale when the third period began, as Subban did take to the ice with his teammates. He was clearly nursing an injured foot, but he looked better and better as the period went on. Unfortunately, the hope that Subban's return would be able to will the Canadiens to victory was dashed before the halfway point of the period. With Jacob de la Rose in the box, Mark Stone scored a goal off his skate in true Senators fashion, it was allowed, and the Sens took a 3-1 lead.
Nathan Beaulieu tried to get the comeback underway, as he finally scored his first NHL goal by simply laying one on net at the end of a long shift. Beaulieu has been playing very well of late, and it was a bit comical that for all his hard work, his first NHL goal came on a play where it looked like he was just trying to get a whistle and get off.
But there was no miracle to be had on this night. Dustin Tokarski would leave the Habs net for the extra attacker, and Kyle Turris would eventually find the back of the net to restore the two goal lead and end any hopes of another comeback against Ottawa.
A few observations
-Despite playing the third period on basically one foot, P.K. Subban managed a 51% Corsi For at even strength. Nathan Beaulieu clocked in at 60%, and although he only played shy of 14 minutes, Greg Pateryn managed 55%. So there were some encouraging things to take away from that game, especially when you consider that Pateryn might have to stick around and eat up 14-15 minutes for a little while longer.
-I am rather suspicious (and not alone on this) of the 44 shots that the Habs were credited with putting on goal in that game. Having not counted them myself this is purely an observation, but I would call that shot total exaggerated. Hammond should still get credit for a solid performance in his first NHL start, he made some great saves, I just don't think he made 42 of them.
-Why does Eric Gryba have an obsession with trying to end Lars Eller's career? I don't have an answer to this question, but it is rapidly becoming a highly valid one in my estimation. His elbow was way out and high going into that hit, and I would accept no argument where this is called a "hockey play" unless you preface that with the words "extremely dangerous" and/or "dirty."
Subban was still effective after returning in the third period, but it was apparent that he was struggling through some pain. I don't think they'd have risked Subban in a game like this one if it were something serious, but when it's a shot to the foot, you probably don't even want to take the skate off because you know there will be some swelling when you do no matter the problem. We'll have to wait and see if Subban will be cleared to play against Florida tonight.
Alexei Emelin was very slow to get up, and unlike Subban he was obviously unable to play though it. Considering that the team recalled Jarred Tinordi from Hamilton less than an hour after the game, it is safe to assume that Emelin is likely to miss at least a little time.