Down their best forward and sitting their star goalie, it seemed like the Habs were in for an uphill climb.
The Canadiens began well, pressuring hard and fairly consistently through the opening five minutes. That momentum came to an end when Greg Pateryn got called for high-sticking at 6:37 on just the second whistle of the game.
While on the power play, Robby Fabbri went into Al Montoya, who went down holding his head. Though it initially looked scary, Montoya remained in net, and came up with a big play in the moments that followed — helped out by a heads-up play by an equally-sharp-looking Alexei Emelin.
The Habs killed off the reaminder of the penalty, and one baton twirl by Markov later, the Habs headed back into the Blues’ end.
At 10:06, luck favoured the visitors, as a puck off the skates of Paul Byron and then Carl Gunnarson put them up 1-0. The goal was Byron’s first in six games, and his eighth of the year. Tomas Plekanec and Mark Barberio collected the assists.
The Habs got a power play of their own as Paul Stastny hauled down Torrey Mitchell. Montoya, looking entirely without rust, managed to keep the puck out of the net on a Blues clear as it took a flukey bounce toward the gaping cage.
Alexander Radulov took a slashing penalty at 13:15, but the Habs killed off the short-handed situation handily. Unfortunately, no sooner had they done so than David Desharnais took a trip of his own to the box after a strong defensive effort.
Emelin continued to have an impressive night throwing himself in front of Montoya to keep the puck out against David Perron, and then blocking a big shot from Colton Parayko.
As is so often the case, a period-opening power play came to nothing in the second, with the Blues’ penalty killers doing a good job of keeping the Habs chasing the puck down the ice.
The Habs got some work at four-on-four, spending nearly the whole stretch cycling the puck in the Blues’ end. Pacioretty rang one off the post, Radulov got a good shot after the penalty expired, and Weber clanked the opposite post before a brief power play ended.
If there were a lot of good little Emelin moments throughout the first, the second period was all Radulov as he battled, held the puck in the zone, and generally made life difficult for the Blues.
Barberio and Pateryn continued their strong play in the absence of Nathan Beaulieu, but unfortunately for the Habs, Pateryn went down after blocking a shot with about five minutes left in the period, and left the bench in some discomfort.
With just over two minutes left to play, Plekanec tipped the puck up to Byron, Byron flew up the ice, gave Plekanec a beautiful pass, and Plekanec broke his 13-game goalless drought in style, going bar-down on Allen.
After 40, the Habs led 2-0, and the shots were all tied up at 19 apiece. There was some good news going into the third for the Habs, as Pateryn returned to the bench. The good news continued as the Habs jumped on the puck right off the opening draw, and Artturi Lehkonen drew a penalty less than thirty seconds in. Despite a perfect setup of Shea Weber, the Blues killed off the penalty, though it was definitely one of their better power plays of the evening.
And that’s pretty much where the good news ended.
The Canadiens’ number-one centre problem continued, as Desharnais appeared to be injured checking Jay Bouwmeester, hobbling off the ice and heading directly to the dressing room with about 13 minutes left in the period.
Bad news rolled on as Stastny scored with a rocket of a shot that went through Montoya very shortly thereafter. On the next shift, Shea Weber saved what could have been the tying goal, covering for an out-of-position Montoya
The Blues continued their momentum, and at 10:31, Jaden Schwartz beat Weber and backhanded the puck into the open net. It was the kind of goal you could see coming from a mile away, and the troubles carried on.
Plekanec, Lehkonen, and Byron had provided a strong bit of pushback on the next outing, followed up by a strong shift by Danault, Radulov and Pacioretty. There were a few more tense moments as first Mitchell and then Markov appeared to leave the bench, but both returned almost immediately.
With 1:16 left, Pacioretty nearly made it 3-2, off of a really nice play from Radulov and Plekanec. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize, and the game went to OT.
Lehkonen got a pretty spinning chance with 1:30 left in the extra period, but it would be Schwartz who put the game away eight seconds later.
Despite the loss, the Habs had a decent game. Shots were 31-30 for the Blues, but as per Andrew Berkshire, scoring chances were 25-23 for the Habs, and high danger chances were 15-11, also in their favour.
Considering how badly the California road trip usually goes, and all the injuries that piled up at the end of this one, five out of 10 points is a pretty good showing. The Habs return to the Bell Centre where they will hopefully get some good news about Alex Galchenyuk, and face the Devils on Thursday.
- Plekanec was excellent last night, especially after his goal, putting up four shots on goal, and making really good plays. Byron too had a strong game, and they were both rewarded with a goal and an assist each. If Plekanec can play as well as he did tonight, the loss of Galchenyuk may not be quite as dire as anticipated.
- Alexander Radulov was an absolute monster, especially in the second period.
- Pateryn and Barberio continued to have good games, blocking shots and making plays. Barberio picked up an assist, as well.
- Filling in for the injured Alex Galchenyuk, Desharnais brought his A game tonight, chasing down pucks, cycling pucks, and making valiant defensive plays (even if they drew penalties). It’s quite a shame that he got hurt at the end.