The Montreal Canadiens first round battle with the Ottawa Senators appeared poised to be a long series between one of the best teams in the regular season and the hottest club in the league leading up to the post-season. To date, the series has not followed that expected storyline as the Canadiens have the Senators on the brink of elimination after winning the first three games of the best-of-seven series.
That massive advantage has been gained in no small part with production from unexpected sources. Brian Flynn contributed a goal and two assists to ensure Montreal came out on top in Game One; a stat line that still has him tied for the team lead in points with P.K. Subban. Game Three belonged to Dale Weise, who contributed all of the offence in the Habs' second consecutive overtime victory.
Montreal now has the chance to be the first team to advance to the second round and benefit from the added rest that winning a series in four games would allow.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the United States: USA Network
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter Live
Tale of the Tape
||5v5 Shot attempts for %
||5v5 Goals For||3
||5v5 Goals Against||7
||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.43
Keys to the Game
The Canadiens have earned themselves four tries at wrapping up the series, which can be a dangerous scenario if the team begins looking ahead to the Division Final while their opponent is preparing to put in a do-or-die effort to avoid elimination tonight.
The Canadiens can be confident in the fact that they have answered the challenge of facing one of the best teams down the final stretch of the qualification campaign by outplaying and outscoring the Senators at five-on-five in each of the first three games of the series, with the biggest discrepancy in possession coming in the last game. As Ottawa made more of a commitment to the physical aspects of the contest on Sunday, Montreal launched about 57% of the even-strength shot attempts. A repeat of that dominance would go a long way toward a win tonight.
When penalty calls have forced the teams to play with an unequal number of skaters, that performance edge hasn't just disappeared but swung hugely in favour of the seventh seed. Montreal has had 13 powerplays so far in the series and has managed to score on just one of them. Otttawa has converted on three of their 10 man-advantage opportunities, tying them with the Anaheim Ducks for the playoff lead in powerplay efficiency, although the Sens have also allowed a shorthanded goal.
The powerplay nearly cost the Canadiens in Game Three as they failed on five (officially six, but one lasted a mere eight seconds) powerplays during the game, one coming with less than four minutes remaining in the third period and the best chance presenting itself after a boarding call six minutes into overtime.
Montreal will be without the services of a player who has dressed in each of the first three games as Nathan Beaulieu has been ruled out for the remainder of the series with a suspected concussion after a hit from Erik Karlsson. His normal spot alongside Tom Gilbert will be handed to
either Sergei Gonchar or Greg Pateryn for tonight's game.
The fact that the team has gotten through three games of the series with very little mention of Carey Price's performance after each one is an amazing feat considering the Hart Trophy-worthy effort that was required from the Canadiens goaltender to win games during the regular season. Price has been great, leading all goaltenders who have started at least two games of a series in save percentage (before games on Tuesday night) at 0.939. That's when you include Ottawa's top-ranked powerplay scoring. His five-on-five numbers are even better:
Perfection has not been required of the Canadiens' netminder. Mere greatness has sufficed, and that is an encouraging sign for the continued playoff success of the Montreal Canadiens.