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Canadiens vs. Red Wings game recap: Habs rally late, but fall short

A last minute push by Montreal wasn't enough to overcome an early deficit.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a morale boosting victory over the Anaheim Ducks, the Montreal Canadiens stormed into Joe Louis Arena with the intent of dashing the Red Wings' playoff hopes. Unfortunately, the Habs would dig a hole that proved too difficult to climb out of.

Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca

The Canadiens looked to be the better team early on, as Tomas Plekanec took advantage of the pile up in Detroit's crease to give Montreal the opening goal. But the goal was quickly waved off by the referees, who instead called a questionable cross-checking penalty on the Czech forward.

Montreal seemed to have a decisive edge in scoring chances throughout the first, even getting a few while short-handed, but couldn't cash in, and were missing the net quite a bit. These missed shots would come back to haunt them in the dying minutes of the first, when Riley Sheahan's harmless looking shot got through Ben Scrivens, giving the Wings their first goal of the game.

Detroit parlayed that momentum into an early shot advantage in the second period, hemming the Canadiens into their own end. When Montreal was finally able to exit the zone, Brendan Smith rocked Stefan Matteau with a borderline illegal hit to bring the Canadiens' transition to a halt. Though Matteau did leave the game following that hit, he would return to the bench later on in the period.

That hit would provoke Phillip Danault to go after Smith and drop the gloves. Unfortunately, the refs elected to give Danault the extra two for instigating, sending Detroit to another power play where Luke Glendening would double the lead to two goals.

Just seconds after that, Riley Sheahan took advantage of a quick break and some sloppy defence to put another one past Ben Scrivens. Not satisfied with a 3-goal lead, the Red Wings continued to pressure the Canadiens throughout the rest of the period.

The sustained pressure would force Nathan Beaulieu to take a high-sticking penalty against Anthony Mantha, putting Detroit on the man advantage yet again. Mantha's first goal of his career would end up extending Detroit's lead to 4-0, and the game seemed all but over at that point.

But the Canadiens would start the third period on a different note. Tomas Plekanec capitalized on an turnover to finally put the Habs on the board. Plekanec's shot squirted out of Petr Mrazek's glove and trickled past the goal line to give the Canadiens a fortuitous goal.

And the plot would thicken, as Paul Byron would pounce on a rebound a few short minutes later to cut the deficit in half. The Habs had life.

Shortly after that, Justin Abdelkader took exception to Max Pacioretty shooting the puck into Detroit's net after the whistle, and the pair wrestled for a bit. Both players received coincidental roughing minors on the play, but neither team would score on the ensuing four-on-four play.

But after the coincidental minors, Pacioretty stepped out of the box on a mission. He jumped straight into the rush, took a feed from Alex Galchenyuk, and sniped it past Mrazek to get his team within one. It really felt like the Canadiens had a chance to go home with a win.

Desperate for a tying goal with time running out, Montreal pulled Ben Scrivens to ice an extra attacker. Not even a last minute penalty to give them a two-man advantage with 17 seconds to go could get them the tying goal, and the comeback fell short by just one goal.

Thoughts

  • Injuries continue to pile up for the Montreal Canadiens. Stefan Matteau, Mike Brown and Lucas Lessio all finished the game a little worse for wear. With Brown not returning to end the game, it stands to reason that the team may need to recall someone from St. John's soon.
  • You know that old narrative about how tough guys like Mike Brown being in the lineup serves as a deterrent? Well that certainly didn't help Stefan Matteau avoid being hammered with a questionable hit. It is beyond time to stop pretending that the mere presence of a player who is good at fighting will stop dirty hits from happening.
  • David Desharnais did not have a good first game back, with the Canadiens controlling only 14.3% of even-strength shot attempts while he was on the ice. It really makes you wonder why Michel Therrien saw fit to have him on the ice in the dying seconds with the goaltender pulled.
  • Why was Ben Scrivens starting in this game? Michel Therrien had gone on record and stated that the winning goaltender would remain in net. Yet, despite Condon putting up a win during his last outing, the coach saw fit to contradict himself by starting Scrivens in net during this game. It didn't make a whole lot of sense.
The Canadiens will now return to Montreal, where they will face the Rangers on Saturday night. It seems we should try to enjoy Habs hockey while it lasts, because there is not much of it left.