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Canadiens vs Oilers game recap: Stick taps all around

The Montreal Canadiens rolled over the Edmonton Oilers in decisive fashion on Saturday afternoon.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens looked to win against the Edmonton Oilers for the first time since October of 2013. Yes, you read that correctly.

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The Oilers entered the game unbeaten since the return of phenom Connor McDavid, and the Canadiens hadn't won in four games. Arguably one of the Habs' best defensemen, Nathan Beaulieu, was a healthy scratch, and the lines continued to perplex fans, with Alex Galchenyuk still on the wing, and Max Pacioretty playing with two bottom-six players. It was also the first time goaltender Ben Scrivens has faced the Oilers since his trade.

The fans sang out the national anthem in hopes of kicking off the Hockey Day in Canada festivities with a win, then the Habs spent nearly the first two minutes pinned in their own zone.

The momentum shifted to the opposite end once that initial storm was weathered, and led to Eric Gryba taking a penalty for an illegal check to the head of Brian Flynn.

The Habs' power play had been hovering around 18%, so clearly this is one of the many areas in which the team is struggling. The good news is the team managed to capitalize on this one.

P.K. Subban faked a shot and passed the puck to Tomas Plekanec who sent a bomb toward the Oilers' net. Brendan Gallagher tipped the puck in front and the Habs were up 1-0

With just four minutes left in the period, Tomas Fleischmann zipped up ice, and sent a beautiful pass out to Lars Eller, who found the back of the net. At the end of the first, shots were 13-12 in favour of Montreal, and the Habs were up 2-0, with Scrivens having a solid first period against his former team.

The Canadiens started the second period on the power play, but couldn't put another one away.

The first half of the period was relatively quiet, until two shorthanded chances by Lars Eller and a breakaway by Dale Weise, though none resulted in a goal.

With eight minutes left in the period, Brendan Gallagher forced a turnover, and Plekanec hopped on the puck, ripping another great shot toward Cam Talbot, this one untouched by any of his teammates.

Just a few minutes later, a solid rush by Gallagher and Plekanec led to P.K. Subban's fifth goal of the season.

Subban now has four goals in his last 11 games.

Scrivens continued to shine, making key saves throughout the period and handling the puck well. At the end of the second, Habs were up 4-0 and shots on goal were 22-20 in favour of Montreal.

The Oilers started the third period with Anders Nilsson in net, and the Canadiens on the power play following an end-of-period call on former Hab, Zack Kassian. Unfortunately, Benoit Pouliot (who else) got a short-handed back-hand goal, putting the Oilers on the board.

Plekanec solid game continued, however, as he found Tom Gilbert in front of the Oilers' net, re-securing a four-goal lead. The rest of the period was relatively quiet, and the game finished at a 5-1 score, with shots on goal 35-24 for the home side.

Final thoughts

  • Players who impressed: Tomas Plekanec, with a four-point performance; Lars Eller, with another solid defensive effort and a goal of his own, and; Ben Scrivens, who earned his first win as a Canadien over his former club.
  • If it works, keep it. The 27-14-11 and 15-81-42 lines really gelled. We haven't seen that kind of chemistry in quite some time. The downside? Max Pacioretty still gets buried on a non-offensive line with Dale Weise and David Desharnais. What's the best solution?
  • A win is a win: Yes, it came against the 29th-ranked team in the league, but you know what? I'll take it.

Montreal will go for back-to-back wins when they welcome the up-and-coming Carolina Hurricanes in a matinee affair tomorrow.  The team has yet to be beaten in an afternoon contest this season, and can go a perfect 3-0 in such games after 5-1 wins over both the Oilers yesterday and the Bruins in the Winter Classic.