With Carey Price, Shea Weber, and Jonathan Drouin all out of the Canadiens’ lineup against the Wild, let's just say expectations were not high.
Could Charlie Lindgren overcome a huge challenge and pick up his sixth win in the NHL? Could Victor Mete and Brandon Davidson pick up the slack left by Weber, and could the Habs win Claude Julien's 200th game behind the Montreal bench?
So many questions.
In the first five minutes, Max Pacioretty and Andrew Shaw headed in on an odd-man rush, and Lindgren calmly turned aside four shots in the opening moments, but after that, except for a lovely chance from Alex Galchenyuk, the Wild more or less carried the play.
Tyler Ennis gave the Habs a scare, dancing around Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry. But the Habs came right back, and Alzner looked, momentarily, like he'd made it 1-0. The ref called it off definitively on a high stick, but the call went to Toronto. Unfortunately, the call on the ice stood, and the score remained 0-0.
This is going to be one hell of a goal for Karl Alzner if this counts pic.twitter.com/opsyJsMs30— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2017
After that, the Habs played far better, getting quite a number of good shifts in the offensive zone, including a couple from Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell. Unfortunately, Devan Dubnyk was well up to the challenge.
Nino Niederreiter took the first penalty of the game against Petry, and a power play without Weber and Drouin went to work. For a team minus its two best players on the advantage, it actually went better than one might have expected. Galchenyuk got a really nice shot from the faceoff circle, but though the Habs controlled the play for almost all of the man advantage, nothing came of it.
The Habs remained in control of the play, with Mitchell especially playing well in the offensive zone. Montreal got a bogus penalty call as Joe Morrow was sent to the box after Niederreiter fell near the the Habs’ net. Pacioretty nearly got a short-handed breakaway, but couldn't touch the puck as it was played with a high stick. Fortunately, the Habs killed off the penalty, and at the end of the first, the shots were 13-12 for Minnesota, and the score remained 0-0.
The Wild started the second better than they'd ended the first, but the Habs got the first power play of the middle period, and the flow of play slowed down. Alzner and Jason Zucker took matching bad penalties at 8:31, and the Habs once again went to work, though there was no change in score.
Petry and Charles Hudon had nice chances on Dubnyk after the teams returned to full strength, and the Canadiens continued to keep the Wild running around in their own zone. In fact, the Habs controlled play so much that with seven minutes left, they were outshooting Minnesota 15-3 in the frame.
After 40, the score remained 0-0, shots were 29-21 for Montreal.
For the third period in a row, the Wild got off to a good start, and Lindgren continued to hold the fort.
The Habs managed to get the first power play of the period. Unfortunately, Jason Zucker scored short-handed on a backhand to open the scoring.
Jason Zucker scores a pretty goal shorthanded pic.twitter.com/FzexM9mQ6o— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2017
With Charles Hudon in the box for a delay of game penalty, Zucker scored again.
Fortunately, Galchenyuk and Hudon thought that being down 2-0 despite outshooting their opponent was rubbish, and the latter scored a bang-in goal in the blue paint on a gorgeous assist from the former.
What a ridiculous pass from Alex Galchenyuk to Lehkonen that leads to Hudon's 3rd goal of the year pic.twitter.com/hhV6IzKuAv— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 10, 2017
The Wild took a flyer on a goaltender interference call, and because it was that kind of game, the goal was overturned.
The Habs pulled Lindgren down 2-0 with 2:20 to go. Minnesota got the empty-net goal, with Zucker scoring again to get a hat trick of goals in three different situations..
The Habs outshot Minnesota 41-35, and generally played better than the visitors, but still fell 3-0.
- Considering how the last game against the Wild went — with Price, Weber, and Drouin — I was definitely leery going into this one, especially given the organization of the lineup. It was really nice to be pleasantly surprised.
- For all that it would have been really nice to see Galchenyuk at centre instead of Mitchell on that line, but Mitchell had a really good game with Galchenyuk and Lehkonen.
- Galchenyuk looked really good. Really, really good. Nice to see a little swagger, and a lot of confidence building there. Obviously, I'd still rather him play at centre, but I'll take a great game from him any time, no matter where he's playing.
- The Habs did a really good job controlling the puck, and getting lots of shots.
- Unfortunately, the answer to all those questions from the beginning of the article was no. But not for lack of a good effort.
- All of the third period was bogus. I am still mad.