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Canadiens vs. Ducks game recap: A holiday feast

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It’s duck-hunting season in Montreal, and the Habs came hungry.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

When the Anaheim Ducks rolled into Montreal, at the very least, a hard-fought game was expected, and quite possibly a loss for the home side, with the Ducks overpowering the injury-depleted Habs as only the big, bad California teams can. Instead, quite the opposite happened.

The opening minutes were eventful only in that Brendan Gallagher went backwards into Jonathan Bernier several feet from the blue paint, and one of the linesmen got banged up.

However, just past the five-minute mark, Andrew Cogliano scored right off a faceoff, but the Habs responded well, winding up with beautiful chances for Max Pacioretty and Jeff Petry.

20161220 5v5SA Corsi Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

The teams traded penalties in short order, as first the Ducks took a call, then Pacioretty. Very shortly into the penalty kill, however, Carey Price nearly sprang Paul Byron on the breakaway. Cam Fowler was forced to trip Byron up, and the teams played four-on-four for about a minute.

Coming off the power play, the fourth line had a very strong shift in the offensive zone, and on the next shift, Torrey Mitchell passed the puck to Petry who brought it up the ice on a two-on-one and shot for the rebound. The puck went straight to a wide-open Byron, who scored with one minute left in the period.

After 20, and the score tied at one apiece, the Habs led in shots 10-7, and looked pretty evenly matched against the Ducks.

The second period ended up with quite a few opportunities for the Canadiens, as Gallagher (looking more like his normal self than he has in a while) tipped a Petry shot just wide, and Plekanec nearly capitalized on a Fowler turnover.

Throughout the next few minutes, the Habs largely controlled the puck, and held the offensive zone at full strength.

On the power-play, however, the Habs struggled to get into the zone for most of the night. At the tail end of their second power play of the period, with little threat to the Ducks penalty kill up to that point, Artturi Lehkonen burst into the zone after a neutral zone faceoff loss and won the puck back. He sent the puck to Paul Byron, who made a perfect pass to Plekanec. Plekanec made no mistake, and Bernier was helpless to prevent it.

The Habs’ onslaught continued after the goal, as Gallagher came close to breaking his scoreless streak

As the whistle went, the two teams tangled as Torrey Mitchell came to the defence of Gallagher and got in a scuffle with Joseph Cramarossa.

After 40 minutes, not only did the Habs lead 2-1, but they definitely got the best of the second period, outshooting Anaheim to the tune of 22-10.

As a result of the period-ending tussle, the Habs were on the penalty kill to start the third, but they killed it off handily. Just minutes after surviving the odd-man situation, Petry’s hot streak continued, as he scored his third goal in three games to put the Habs up by a more comfortable two goals.

Daniel Carr drew a tripping call against Bernier at 7:52, and Pacioretty absolutely made the goaltender pay. Petry drew the assist, earning his seventh point in five games, and his third of the night.

The Ducks did generate a little push back, but appeared to largely pack it in after Pacioretty’s goal. With 46 seconds left, Chris Terry scored his first goal as a Hab to make it 5-1 and put the game away.

This was a big win for the Habs, scoring two power-play goals, and holding Anaheim to only three shots in both the second and third periods.

Yes Anaheim played last night, but the Habs are down some key pieces, and never once took their foot off the gas.

Thoughts

  • Artturi Lehkonen continues to impress on both sides of the puck. He’s not exactly flashy, but he always seems to be doing the right things in the right places.
  • Paul Byron has 11 goals this year, matching his career high, and sits only two behind Max Pacioretty for the lead in goals on the team. That’s 11 goals for free. Thanks, Calgary!
  • Nathan Beaulieu had a really good night, playing big minutes, getting three shots, and picking up an assist on Terry’s goal. He looked comfortable and played with a certain élan that was very pleasing to watch.
  • Jeff Petry is on fire lately, and last night was no exception. He seems to be jumping up in the play much more frequently lately, to very good effect.
  • This is definitely not the Ducks team of old, and boy do the Habs know how to pick apart Jonathan Bernier.
  • I had a whole thought dedicated to how the power play looked bad and the Habs miss Alex Galchenyuk, and then they went and scored two on the power play. Despite some restlessness from the fans as they lost momentum on their first few chances, the team found a way to score two goals without needing the normal five-man setup.