With the long-awaited return of Alex Galchenyuk and Andrew Shaw, the Montreal Canadiens had what finally looked like a real top-six composition. The hope was, of course, that their returns would stop the team’s struggles it has had in recent games.
The beginning of the game was a bit choppy, with both teams having time in each other’s zone, but both teams also having trouble finishing passes cleanly.
That is, until Nathan Beaulieu threw the puck on net with a crowd gathered around Antti Raanta. The puck pinballed around, and Phillip Danault continued his hot streak, backhanding the puck into the net. There was a coach’s challenge, however, for goaltender interference, and the goal was called back on the grounds of Andrew Shaw impeding Raanta.
The Habs kept buzzing after the disallowed goal, and the Rangers took the first penalty as Radulov was tripped up in the offensive zone. Despite a pretty lethargic power play, the Habs were able to keep the puck in the offensive zone to end the power play, allowing them to set up a number of consecutive shifts in the offensive zone.
Shaw’s rough night continued as he was sent off for interference on Ryan McDonagh, and the Rangers scored just seconds into the power play. And then it carried on as he laid a big, high hit on Jesper Fast. J.T. Miller jumped in to defend his teammate, and the two dropped the gloves. Both got five for fighting, and Shaw got a major for the hit, and a game misconduct. The Habs went to the penalty kill, but they looked much better than they had lately, even getting a classic Max Pacioretty-Tomas Plekanec short-handed rush.
At the end of 20 minutes, shots were 10-10, and the Rangers led 1-0.
The Habs began the second killing off the back half of Shaw’s penalty, but the biggest surprise going into the second was the swap of for Antti Raanta for Henrik Lundqvist, the starter apparently leaving the game with a lower-body injury.
It took the Habs until 3:08 mark of the period before Mark Barberio threw the puck onto the net, much like Beaulieu had in the first, and Galchenyuk tipped the puck in past Lundqvist to tie the game.
Things got a little hairy after that, as the Habs got stuck in their own end, and Price made some big saves. Then Kevin Hayes got caught in Price’s gear, pulling him out of the crease, and the Rangers scored. There was a review on the Habs’ challenge, but it was deemed a good goal.
There was nothing to fear, however, as Brian Flynn tied it up two shifts later, as the Habs were allowed to establish position around Lundqvist’s net, and hammer away at the loose puck.
The Habs had a chance to take the lead on the power play, but J.T. Miller got in behind an oblivious Shea Weber to put the Rangers up 3-2 short-handed.
With 30 seconds to go in the period, Sven Andrighetto got in all by himself, but was unable to pull the trigger thanks to a good backcheck from McDonagh, and the second period ended with a Rangers’ lead both in goals and in shots.
The Habs had some nice chances to begin the third, including a blast from Alexei Emelin that hit Lundqvist squarely on the crest, and on the other end, a dangerous chance from the Hayes line. The Habs took over the play about seven minutes into the period, but the Rangers’ defensive game allowed them to hold onto the lead.
The defences held until just after the midway point of the frame, when Emelin’s soft shot from the blue line floated past Lundqvist to tie the game up at three.
Pacioretty beat McDonagh and Lundqvist just over 30 seconds later for his 20th, and less than thirty seconds after that, Danault made a beautiful pass to Paul Byron who made it 5-3 with his 13th of the year. Danault’s assist on Byron’s marker gave him his third assist of the night.
The Habs killed off an Andrighetto slashing penalty, but Derek Stepan made it a close game again, scoring at 14:53.
The remaining five minutes were extremely tense, but the Habs held on to the lead, partly thanks to a lightning fast glove save by Price.
The Rangers made a valiant effort to tie it up, pulling Lundqvist with about 1:30 left in the period. But between some excellent clears, and a few key saves by Price, the Habs fought them off to hold on to their 5-4 lead.
- For all the early year angst about Pacioretty’s goal-scoring, we’re 44 games in, and Pacioretty has 20 goals (16 in the last 23) and 17 assists for 37 points altogether.
- I will freely admit I was skeptical of Danault’s value when he first came to the Habs (though I definitely did think they won the trade), and that I was very, very wrong. He’s been unbelievable lately, looking like a first-line centre when they needed him to, and continuing to produce after dropping down the lineup.
- Thank you, Calgary, for those 13 free goals!
- Maybe Price doesn’t quite look like himself lately, but boy did he make the big saves when he needed to.