The Montreal Canadiens came into this game desperate for a win; sitting on the outside of the playoff picture, and quickly sliding out of contention. They began their season 9-0 starting with a win at Toronto, so this game provided the perfect opportunity to get back on track.
They started the game off with a bang, when Dale Weise made a nice pass to David Desharnais, who did something that the team has struggled to do for a long time: score a goal. After scoring, the Habs did not let their foot off the gas and continued to press the Leafs, not allowing them a shot on goal for the first 11 minutes of the game.
Desharnais goal pic.twitter.com/D3kNlNKsTf— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 24, 2016
Leo Komarov closed his hand on the puck while falling to the ice, giving the Canadiens a power play. While the power play still looks bad, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty used each other to move penalty killers out of lanes so they could get shots on goal. Unfortunately, they couldn't capitalize.
As the period wound down, Tomas Fleischmann took a shot and recent call-up Daniel Carr got a piece of it to make for a two-goal lead. Carr is one of the few players who was producing scoring chances when he was sent down. Having him play alongside Lars Eller, who has quietly been playing very well, helps make the third line more of a scoring threat.
The second started off badly when the refs called a very odd goaltender interference penalty, as Dale Weise brushed James Reimer's arm. The Habs managed to kill it off, and then Daniel Carr almost scored on a wrap around, but there was no conclusive angle to show that the puck was fully over the line, so it didn't count.
Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca
The Leafs would draw back within one when Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher were forced into being the last two players back, and Nazem Kadri scored on a nice feed from Morgan Rielly. While they were dominated thoroughly in the first, the Leafs began to climb back into the game as the second rolled on.
After holding the Leafs to three shots in the first, the Habs allowed them to have eight in the second, which serves to illustrate how much closer the game was getting.
Although the Canadiens started off looking a bit better in the third, the Leafs opened up the scoring with Joffrey Lupul banging home a rebound. Brendan Gallagher almost pulled the Habs ahead again, but his efforts were undone by physics, as the puck hit the post and curved away from the goal line. Ultimately, the game headed to 3-on-3 overtime.
When overtime solved nothing, the game went to a shootout. Michel Therrien turned to Alex Galchenyuk, Brian Flynn, and Pacioretty, the latter scoring on a beautiful shot to keep the Habs in it. Mike Condon was excellent, saving all but one shot until Lars Eller was able to roof the puck on Reimer to give the Habs the win. This may be the start of something good for the Habs, but we have seen this song and dance before, so it's cautious optimism at this point.
- The Habs played great defense in the first period. Well, it sure seemed like they did, because they constantly had the puck, and were able to simply not allow the Leafs to get into the offensive zone.
- Lars Eller is incredibly underrated, because he is one of those players that does not score a lot, but he is great at getting the puck, keeping the puck, and getting the puck on net. He does the little things well for the Habs, and is a key player defensively, especially on the penalty kill.
- While Nathan Beaulieu and Mark Barberio are a really nice third pair, Beaulieu should really be on the Canadiens first pair with Subban, as the two of them together make the Habs the better team on the ice by a lot. When Beaulieu was on the ice, the Habs controlled over 70% of even-strength shot attempts.
- Speaking of Barberio, how was he not qualified by the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer? He is cheap, and good both offensively and defensively. He is barely noticeable in the defensive zone, and visible offensively in all the right ways.
- Brian Flynn is a nice player on the fourth line, but there is no way he should be on the ice in overtime. Ever. He's been good for the Habs, but he's clearly not the guy you want out there during a sudden-death situation.
The Canadiens won't have to wait long for their opportunity to start a winning streak, as they'll head to Ohio to take on the Blue Jackets on Monday night.