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Canadiens vs Senators game two recap: Habs stars come up big

Amidst a ton of criticism from pundits and the chronically whiney Senators organization, P.K. Subban silenced critics with an all-world performance.

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After P.K. Subban was ejected from game one against the Ottawa Senators, moments after setting up two quick goals, the widow of departed Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau told him she knew he would be better in game two. Elise Beliveau wore a Subban jersey to both games, and no one cheered harder when Subban took a bank pass off the boards from Devante Smith-Pelly and wired it through Andrew Hammondoff the crossbar, and in the net.

Photo credit: @PeteBlackburn

Subban was rewarded with a big kiss from his usually-cranky, Russian defense partner, Andrei Markov. The goal gave Montreal a one-goal lead after returning sniper Max Pacioretty tied the game on the powerplay just over nine minutes prior on a great feed from David Desharnais.

Subban's performance was more than a single great goal though, as the young phenom led both teams in ice time at 29:06, put 13 shot attempts at the net, and had his team control 63% of shot attempts while he was on the ice at even strength, in spite of starting just 43% of his shifts in the offensive zone.

After the Senators had a huge advantage in powerplays in game one, it seemed like the second game had a reversal of fortunes. Perhaps it was because of Dave Cameron's comments after the first game, but this one was called tightly, and it was the Senators who were caught more often.

Slightly worrying for the Canadiens, they couldn't capitalize more than once in 11:25 of powerplay time, which gave the Senators enough breathing room to keep the game close, and thanks to a terribly undisciplined penalty taken by Alexei Emelin, tie it up on a powerplay of their own on a great move from Patrick Wiercioch.

The Senators tying the game set up the first bit of overtime of the series, but as fans got strapped in for a long one, some scrambling in the Ottawa zone led to Alex Galchenyuk picking up the puck, spinning, shooting, and beating Hammond to give the Canadiens a 2-0 series lead.

A series of surprises

If you had asked most people whether the Habs would be up 2-0 on Ottawa after two games, it would probably be only the biggest homers that said yes. If you had asked informed analysts of the games which team would have the possession advantage at even strength through two games, I'm not sure anyone would have said it would be Montreal. Yet here we are, after two games, one without both P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty, and the Canadiens held a slight edge in both games.

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While the top line of Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher struggled in game one, the return of Pacioretty completely changed the dynamic of what the Senators had to do defensively. They could no longer stick their best checkers solely against that line and hope for the best against the other three, and as a result, the Plekanec line had a significantly better game.

Perhaps the most important difference maker in the possession game though, has been Lars Eller. Through two games Eller has a sterling 64.4% shot attempt differential, and he's doing it with two players who are not traditionally strong possession players in Dale Weise and Jacob de la Rose. When we had TSN analyst Travis Yost on Ice Level to preview the series, his player to watch in the series was Eller, and true to form, through two games he has the best possession numbers of any player on the Habs.

Through two games, the Canadiens have 55.6% of the even strength scoring chances in the series, and strangely enough, 55.6% in all situations. Two games in, it looks like Michel Therrien has pulled another rabbit out of his hat, and aside from the 2-0 series lead, I don't think things could have possibly played out better for Therrien and his squad.

As Hammond flops around and gives up weird goals, the games have still been close. He's been fairly lucky on a lot of high quality shots against, meaning it's unlikely he gets pulled in favour of Craig Anderson, who is a significantly superior goaltender. The Canadiens are far more likely to win this series, and quickly, with Hammond in net, and he was just good enough to keep the crease.

Yet when I watch the Senators carry the puck into Montreal's zone and create complete havoc, I can't help but think this series isn't over yet.