The Montreal Canadiens came into Friday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a 1-1-1 record in their last three contests and losses in their last two. They were without the services of Alexander Radulov (who did not travel with the team because of the flu) or Carey Price who is slated to start Saturday's tilt versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Michel Therrien added recent call-up Charles Hudon to the lineup in place of Sven Andrighetto on the fourth line alongside Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Carr.
Coming into this game, Al Montoya was 1-2-1 in his career versus Carolina. He was the fourth goaltender Montreal has started against the Hurricanes in their last four meetings, with Ben Scrivens, Mike Condon, and Charlie Lindgren starting the previous three.
Cam Ward, for his part, has been heating up, leading the Hurricanes to wins in his previous two starts, with his team outscoring the Capitals and Sharks by a combined 6-1 score, and posting a .941 save percentage entering last night’s contest.
In typical Therrien fashion (and I mean this as a compliment), the starting lineup featured former Hurricane Chris Terry, alongside Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais with Andrei Markov, and Jeff Petry backing them up.
The Canadiens opened the game with good pressure in the offensive zone, outshooting Carolina 3-0 just three minutes in. The play remained largely in the Hurricanes’ zone throughout the first, with a shot from Terry going off the post early and some good chances right at the goalmouth with Ward standing tall on the line.
Carolina (specifically, Jeff Skinner's line) made a few attempts at rushes into the Habs’ end, but a smart Jeff Petry backcheck stopped what looked like a good scoring chance.
Skinner got that scoring chance a little later when he knocked one off the crossbar before it bounced off Terry's stick and somehow landed outside of the goal line. Greg Pateryn landed himself in the net and helped Montoya to keep the puck out.
The first power play of the game went to Carolina when Shea Weber was called for slashing. Carolina's power play was ranked 12th in league at 19.2% efficiency, and the Habs looked to speedy Paul Byron to get things going, as the Hurricanes have also allowed three short-handed goals this season. Alas....
The Hurricanes kept momentum going following the power play, and looked to have opened the scoring when the horn sounded and the goal light went on after a Lee Stempniak shot bounced off the side of the net, fooling everyone including the referee.
That was as close as either team came to being credited with a goal, and the first period ended with no score and the Habs outshooting the Hurricanes 9-4.
The second period started with the two teams trading zone time with few actual scoring chances.
Montreal got an opportunity on the man advantage three minutes into the second when Derek Ryan was called for tripping Markov. Dueling special teams came into play as Carolina started the game with the NHL's top penalty kill, and Montreal's power play has been running at 50% over the last four games (going four-for-eight). The Hurricanes showed why they haven't allowed a power-play goal in their last seven games with a strong setup to leave Montreal struggling to enter the Carolina zone. In that scenario, the Habs really missed Radulov’s puck-carrying style.
Terry, who was flying all night against his former team, had a big hit on a quick backcheck just at the end of the Habs’ power play to stop a scoring chance for the Hurricanes.
The Habs continued to put pressure on the Hurricanes in their own zone, and it finally led to the game's first goal. Petry picked up a Markov rebound and Cam Ward, preoccupied with his Oscar-worthy performance after Daniel Carr was pushed into him by Noah Hanifin, couldn't stop the quick shot.
Ward quickly argued goaltender interference, and his coaching staff challenged the play, but the goal stood. Lost in the theatrics of the goal was the great play by Hudon to set up the scoring chance, recording his third assist in just his fourth NHL game. It was Jeff Petry's first goal since he recorded two on opening night.
Carolina put some pressure on the Habs in the dying seconds of the period, but some good defensive plays from Desharnais and Markov kept the lead intact.
Carolina started the final period with a long stint in the Habs end after shuffling their lines. They came out determined to tie the game and managed to do so just three-and-a-half minutes in on a deft deflection by Skinner, getting his foot angled to send a Ron Hainsey point shot opposite side on Montoya. Greg Pateryn tied up Skinner's stick, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the skilled forward from converting. The goal was reviewed by the referees for a kicking motion, but was also deemed a good goal.
Hudon continued to create offensive pressure, holding the puck in the Hurricanes end. With Pateryn's shots from the point and Torrey Mitchell planted in front of the net, Ward came up with the saves each time.
Carolina took the lead a few minutes later with another redirection of a Hainsey shot, this time by Teuvo Teravainen. The goal followed the established procedure of needing a review, this one for a high-stick, but, again, the goal stood.
Carolina didn't rest on their one-goal lead, outshooting Montreal 7-3 in the third when, just two minutes later, a quick snap shot from Victor Rask found its way past Montoya to give the home side a two-goal cushion.
A brief period in the midst of a line change found Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and Brendan Gallagher on the ice together, and the trio responded to Carolina's third goal by pouring on the pressure with nine minutes left, but couldn't manage to get the puck behind Ward.
Therrien responded to the desperate situation by shuffling his lines as well, leaving Pacioretty out and adding David Desharnais, and they did enjoy a prolonged period in the offensive zone, but couldn’t score.
The Canadiens finally drew to back within one when Andrew Shaw redirected Markov’s slap-pass past Ward with four minutes left. Markov's assist tied him with Yvan Cournoyer on the team’s all-time assist list.
The Habs pressed for the equalizer by tossing everything at Ward but he (and his posts) put on a show, keeping everything clear of the goal line.
A big save by Montoya with just over a minute left kept the game within reach for the Habs. With their goalie pulled and the Habs deep in the offensive zone, Shaw hooked a Carolina player as he threatened to rim the puck around the boards, and, with 12 seconds left, had an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a 10-minute misconduct tacked on when he took umbrage with the referee's decision.
Montreal fought hard in the dying seconds and ended the game outshooting Carolina 33-18, but fell by a 3-2 score for their third consecutive loss.
- Charles Hudon is an NHLer. He didn't look out of place and seemed to generate that spark the Habs looked to have been missing in Radulov's absence. He was on the ice in the final minute looking for the equalizer.
- Carolina made adjustments for the third period, rearranging lines to bring a spark that the Habs just couldn't seem to match, though they gave it the good old college try for the final few minutes.
- The Canadiens had a good number of chances to tie things up created by going to the net and clogging the front of Ward's crease. They couldn't even accidentally put one in and managed to toss the puck wide each time they had an open look.
- The Habs showed some good hustle for the first 40 minutes and the last 10 minutes. Hockey games are 60 minutes long, though, and those 10 missing minutes cost the Habs last night.
Montreal’s next game is Saturday night. At home. Versus the Leafs. The Canadiens will bring it, and they'll win big, and you heard that here first.