If there's one thing we can count on during a Habs/Sens playoff game, it's that it will be thoroughly entertaining, no matter the circumstances. This game was no different.
The home team started the game with a plethora of energy, eager to avenge their 2013 meeting. Devante Smith-Pelly, in particular, seemed incredibly revved up, throwing Senators players to the ground as if he was in an Andy Samberg skit. The first scoring chance came from a Torrey Mitchell breakaway (yes, you read that correctly), but Andrew Hammond was up to the task, keeping the Senators in the game early on.
Unfortunately, disaster struck, as one of Montreal's most reliable defenders opened the scoring, albeit in his own net. Andrei Markov tucked a puck in behind Carey Price, giving the Senators the 1-0 lead. Milan Michalek was credited with the goal.
The score would hold until midway through the second period, when all hell broke loose. Mitchell would redeem himself, tying the game for the Habs thanks to some great forechecking by the fourth line.
In less time than it took the Bruins to lose the Stanley Cup against Chicago, the Habs struck again. This time it was defensive stalwart Tomas Plekanec who beat Hammond cleanly, during a 2 vs 1 with Brendan Gallagher.
Things were looking great for the Canadiens, but discipline issues caused the game plan to unravel. First it was Lars Eller who took an ill-advised high-sticking penalty, and then P.K. Subban delivered a hefty slash to Mark Stone. That left the Habs facing an extended 5 on 3, and without their best defender, seeing as how Subban was given a major and a game misconduct on the play.
Kyle Turris quickly tied the game, thanks to a perfectly-placed wrist-shot above Price's blocker. Mika Zibanejad also made the Habs pay for their lack of discipline a little later, but not before Lars Eller scored a fantastic short-handed goal.
The score was tied, and despite a lack of powerplay opportunities, the absence of their two best skaters, and an own-goal, the Habs were still very much in the game, mostly thanks to the performance of their bottom-six players.
Cue another highlight effort from the fourth line. Bryan Flynn picked up the puck in the corner, and broke into the slot, beating Hammond between the pads. The score would hold, and the Habs earned a 1-0 series lead.
- Montreal's top-six was taken to the wood shed during this game, and they were saved by their grinders. That makes sense if you keep in mind that nothing involving the Sens and Habs follows any logic whatsoever.
- Subban's penalty was fair, and I know I'm not going to make any friends by saying he deserved to be kicked out, but if I was in the referees' position I would have made the same call. In fact, the rule book is fairly clear on the matter. It really seemed from the way Stone reacted that he had suffered a major injury when he returned to the locker room. Yes, he was back on the bench later that period, and yes, he did seem to be healthy enough to start throwing punches towards the end of the game, but the referees were dealing with the information they had on hand, and didn't have the benefit of hindsight like the rest of us. Subban also got away with a blatant chop earlier in the game. Essentially, he was reckless with his stick, and paid the price.
- The league has announced they're not going to suspend Subban, which should surprise no one except maybe Dave Cameron. Speaking of Cameron, he definitely let his emotions take over. It was a risky movie to threaten a team, and there's literally no good that could come from it. Furthermore, the emotional outburst may cost him $25,000.
- According to the post-game comments it appears as if the Senators are entirely focused on Subban. If they continue to obsess over him they'll be playing directly into his hands.
- When these two teams come together the games tend to be incredibly exciting, but that's mostly because they both lack any semblance of structured defensive coverage. Sloppiness incarnate.
- Price was sharp, even if he allowed three goals. Two of them came on a Senators powerplay, and the other was an own-goal.
- Most of the defenders did a fantastic job during Subban's absence. Jeff Petry, in particular, had a fantastic night.
- The Habs managed to win the game missing their two best skaters, and it has to be said that Michel Therrien did a great job managing his team's ice time.
- Death to the pseudo-rivalry between the Leafs and Habs, because it's clear that Montreal's #1 Ontario rival hails from the nation's capital.
- Let's keep in mind that was only game one. There's at least three more games to go, if not more. Buckle up, it's going to be a crazy ride.
- I'm never going to get the opportunity to write this again, so I absolutely must point out that Brian Flynn is the current playoff points leader.