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Canadiens vs. Wild recap: The kids lead the charge, but Habs come up short

The injuries keep piling up for the Montreal Canadiens who hosted the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

With no P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens fans were apprehensive heading into last night's matchup versus the Minnesota Wild, unsure of how the already decimated blue line would perform without the one person holding it together.  A massive chunk of minutes for veteran Andrei Markov seemed to be the most likely strategy of dealing with the loss of the elite defender, which didn't bode well for the Canadiens' chances.

20160312 5v5SA Corsi
Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

The good news with all the injuries is that some of the young prospects get a legitimate shot to show what they can do on the NHL stage.  Last night, that meant a big-league debut for Darren Dietz, and the return of Charles Hudon, who got to start the game on Tomas Plekanec's wing.

It was a slow start to the game, with only one shot on goal, by Minnesota, after six-and-a-half minutes of play. However, the pace quickly picked up. Torrey Mitchell made a little backhand play as he was being checked, and Michael McCarron scooted into the offensive zone right past two Minnesota players. Say what you want, the guy is fast for being about 700 feet tall.

While the kids were looking alright, Mike Condon made a bit of a boo-boo about halfway through the first. As he came out to play the puck, Condon set it right onto the tape of Nino Niederreiter, who made no mistake and put the Wild up 1-0.

Just over a minute later, Mark Barberio skated the puck in and made a little drop pass back to Sven Andrighetto, who let a shot go. Devan Dubnyk made the save, but Barberio was right on his doorstep and buried the rebound, tying things up.


The excitement was short lived, however, as Mikael Granlund restored the one-goal almost immediately, firing a shot that Condon just couldn't quite get his glove to.

Shortly after, Paul Byron got hit hard in the corner by Nate Prosser and drew a two-minute minor for elbowing. As you might expect, the first power play of the game was rather lacklustre, with just one shot on goal. The period came to an end with the Wild up 2-1, with shots about the same ratio, at 10-6 in favour of Minnesota.

Lucas Lessio continued his strong play to start the second period, creating some excellent offensive opportunities with his top-end speed.

With Michael McCarron in the box for hooking midway through the second, Thomas Vanek skated in toward the net and tossed the puck back to the point. Dealing with traffic in front, Condon couldn't quite get his glove on the puck, and it was kicked over to Granlund, who scored his second goal of the game.


The game beginning to slip away, Hudon was moved to a line with Lessio and McCarron, while Torrey Mitchell took Hudon's spot on the line with Plekanec and Paul Byron. Fortunately for Hudon, playing alongside Lessio wasn't much of a demotion, getting a chance to move away from a tough defensive deployment to play on a more offensively minded trio

At the tail end of the period, Alexei Emelin was hit from behind by Ryan Carter and slammed into the boards. There was no call on the play, and Emelin left the ice as tensions mounted in what had been a fairly emotionless affair. Emelin was not on the bench to start the third, but did return soon afterward, allowing the team to finish with a full complement of six defencemen.

Aside from the back-to-back-to-back scoring in the first, and the short-lived rise in temperature to end the second, the game was mostly a snoozefest, and the third period was more of the same. Half-way through the third, despite the shots heavily in favour of the trailing Habs, both teams looked to be playing the game to its conclusion.

That changed right near the end of the game with Mike Brown and Max Pacioretty both getting open-net opportunities, but they went by the wayside as the Canadiens' closest chances to pulling back into the contest. Erik Haula got an empty-netter, his 10th of the season, as Montreal pulled their goalie with two-and-a-half minutes to go, and that was the final tally of the night, with the Wild leaving the Bell Centre with an important 4-1 win.

Thoughts

  • I like Hudon's aggressiveness. He really reminds me a lot of Brendan Gallagher in the way he's unafraid to charge the net or get into the face of any opposing player. I would have liked to have seen more of him this season, but I am legitimately hoping he sticks around for the remainder of the year.
  • The kids looked great, especially Lessio, who showed some real offensive potential.
  • In addition, Barberio has fit in quite nicely on the blue line. He amassed just over 25 minutes of ice time (second only to Markov) and scored on his only shot.

Next on the docket is Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers on Tuesday evening.