Riding high on Carey Price’s return to form, the Canadiens handed their divisional rivals their seventh loss in a row with a 2-1 win on Wednesday night.
Defenceman David Schlemko drew into the lineup, making his season debut with the home team.
Despite exchanging a few shots on net, neither team found its feet early on in the opening frame. The Canadiens got an opportunity to get on the board first, when Jean-Gabriel Pageau was called for hooking Schlemko less than five minutes into the period. But Montreal squandered the ensuing power play, giving up a short-handed goal to Mark Stone to spot Ottawa the first lead of the game.
After weathering some offensive pressure from the Senators following the goal, the Canadiens responded in kind. Peeved with having to play catch up again, Montreal made a push to get a tying goal through the rest of the first. Tomas Plekanec nearly got the home team on the board, but Mike Condon denied him to keep it a scoreless game for the Canadiens.
The game also took a more physical turn when Nate Thompson ran into Price. The MVP was shaken up on the play, but remained in net as Thompson sat in the penalty box, and stayed between the pipes for the rest of the game.
Much like during the first power play, the Canadiens nearly gave up another short-handed goal to the Senators and were 0-for-2 on the man advantage. Luckily for Montreal, they were able to escape the first frame only down a goal.
Unluckily for the Canadiens, they were down a man less than half a minute into the second period, when Andrew Shaw headed to the box to serve time for a high-sticking penalty. But like the Habs’ two power plays, it was the team on the penalty kill that got the best scoring chance.
Paul Byron blew past Stone to create a two-on-one short-handed opportunity for Montreal, but once again couldn’t beat Condon.
The Canadiens relentless even-strength pressure would pay off less than two minutes later, when Jonathan Drouin was awarded a penalty shot after Cody Ceci interfered with his drive to the net. Drouin made no mistake on his solo attempt, banking the puck in off the post to tie the game at one.
Just over two minutes later, Montreal got its first lead of the game, when Danault redirected Shaw’s pass behind Condon to make it a 2-1 game. The Canadiens strong forechecking efforts saw them take advantage of a disorganized Senators defence, to get their second goal of the night.
Ottawa got a chance to respond just over halfway through the second period, when Joe Morrow served two minutes in the box for holding Matt Duchene. Once again, Montreal’s penalty killers got the job done, limiting the road team to just a single shot on net.
Undeterred, the Senators continued to press for another goal. Ottawa ended up back on the powerplay over three minutes later, when Jordie Benn was penalized for slashing Zack Smith. But the third time was not the charm for the road team, as Montreal’s penalty kill remained unbeatable and allowed the Canadiens to carry a 2-1 lead into the final frame.
Starting from where they left off, the Canadiens pressured the Senators to begin the third. The line of Charles Hudon, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher, in particular, wrecked havoc in Ottawa’s end.
The Senators got a chance of their own, when Stone’s shot somehow stayed out after hitting Jeff Petry and going off the post. Ottawa wasn’t the only team to see the puck go off the post and out, as Hudon’s shot met the same fate nearly halfway through the final frame.
As minutes continued to tick by, the Ottawa Senators upped their efforts to score a tying goal. With score effects kicking in, Price had to make a couple of flashy saves to keep it a 2-1 game. Though the Senators pulled their goaltender in a desperate attempt to score another goal, Price held down the fort to give the Canadiens their third win in a row.
- David Schlemko made a great first impression. The Canadiens controlled over 67% of shot attempts while the defenceman was on the ice. For a player who had just returned from injury, he did not look out of place skating beside Jakub Jerabek. Schlemko was also on the ice during the dying minutes of the third with the Senators having an extra man on the ice, perhaps indicating that the coaching staff were satisfied with what they had seen from him in this game.
- Charles Hudon and Brendan Gallagher continue to create scoring chances. Despite not getting on the scoreboard, they generated a ton of offensive zone pressure through their tenacious forechecking. It is no surprise then, that the Canadiens maintained a positive shots for percentage when the duo was on the ice. Both Gallagher and Hudon have also displayed a knack for getting under their opponents’ skin (in fact, just take a look at Hudon shooting the puck at the Senators bench).
- Carey Price is back. Despite some consternation about his uncharacteristic poor play to begin the season and worries about the contract extension that he had signed with the Canadiens, Price has looked every bit the All-Star goaltender he is over the last three games. He has allowed only three goals on 102 shots, posting a ridiculous .979 save percentage in that span. Hopefully, this trend will continue.