Saturday night’s matchup featured a pair of teams that have failed to live up to the lofty expectations heaped upon them by the fans and media. Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers started off the season horrendously, failing to generate any offence, even with multiple superstar players on both sides.
Montreal’s recent surge due to the return of Carey Price had given fans some hope, but a losing skid put a damper on the sudden bit of optimism.
The Oilers couldn’t find any semblance of consistency to start their year either, and the issue has been compounded by the lack of offence from their big off-season acquisition, Ryan Strome. Cam Talbot being out has forced the load onto the shoulders of the relatively untested Laurent Brossoit.
With a long break looming for the Habs, anything other than a strong performance against a stumbling Edmonton team would be a major talking point until their next game.
From the outset it looked like Montreal would do just that, as they put their foot down and controlled the flow of play in the early going. With plenty of pressure on the Oilers, it was Paul Byron who drew an early penalty to gve the Habs a golden opportunity to knock the wind out of a struggling side early.
Outside of a few Shea Weber shots, the power play didn’t trouble the Oilers all that much. Then the Oilers capitalized on the first major mistake the Canadiens made, in a moment that was far too reminiscent of the early season woes.
A poor clearing attempt by Charles Hudon allowed the Oilers to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins found former playoff hero Michael Cammalleri who wristed a shot through Price for a 1-0 lead.
Not even a minute later Jesse Puljujärvi nearly doubled the lead, firing a wrist shot from the circle that Price was beaten by, but the crossbar was kind to the Canadiens for once. The puck bounced off the outside of the bar, and never entered the net.
Instead of taking this second chance and running with it, Montreal fell behind by another goal, this time on a rare misplay of the puck by Price.
A hard dump-in came to the Canadiens netminder behind his goal, and he went to fire it around in typical fashion. This time however, Strome swatted the puck down and Jujhar Khaira finished the play off as Price scrambled to cover his open post.
A solid shift by the line of Daniel Carr, Byron Froese, and Nicolas Deslauriers salvaged part of a forgettable period for the Habs. Despite their best efforts, the Oilers blocked a large number of their prime scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes, leaving Montreal looking for a spark heading into the next period.
That spark never came for the Canadiens unfortunately, as just over a minute into the second period, the Oilers were up 3-0. Strome let a shot fly and a rebound came right off the end boards to a wide-open Khaira, who scored his second of the night.
Things just got worse not even a minute later (there’s a theme here I think), as the Oilers power play ended Price’s night. Jeff Petry was called for holding, and while he was in the box, it was the Habs’ old friend, Milan Lucic, who piled on another goal. Leon Draisaitl backhanded across the slot to a wide-open Lucic, and the power forward hammered his sixth goal of the year past Price, bringing Antti Niemi into the game.
The Oilers kept the pressure on Montreal, forcing the fresh Niemi to make a number of big saves. To the netminder’s credit he looked perfectly at ease stopping the Edmonton onslaught, and with a little help from his posts kept the Oilers’ goal total at four.
Andrew Shaw dropped the gloves against the much larger Darnell Nurse in an effort to provide some fire for his team. To Shaw’s credit he was giving up a mountain of height and weight to Nurse and held his own, though it didn’t have the desired impact on his team.
With Brandon Davidson sitting in the box, the Canadiens finally got their offence in gear, even if just temporarily. Alex Galchenyuk brought the puck in deep and shoveled a pass to Max Pacioretty who handed it off to Jeff Petry. Petry then fired a perfect slap pass towards the net, and it was Galchenyuk who tipped the puck past Brossoit for his seventh goal of the year.
Instead of taking the momentum from that late second-period goal, the Canadiens imploded in under a minute for the 11th time this season. With Brendan Gallagher in the box, Oscar Klefbom let a shot fly from the point that Karl Alzner attempted to block, but only managed to kick the puck straight in the net to put the kibosh on any chance of a Canadiens comeback.
Thirty seconds later, Yohann Auvitu finished off a nice passing play involving Connor McDavid and Puljujärvi to make it 6-1 and officially make it a rout.
To end the game the shaken-up lines got a goal back, due in part to the strong forecheck of Byron Froese in the Edmonton zone. Froese got in deep and forced a turnover around the net, and Phillip Danault swatted the puck in backhanded to make it a 6-2 game; a minuscule moral victory if there ever was one in this game.
- Montreal now has four days off between games, and coming off an embarrassing loss like this one it’s going to put major pressure on Marc Bergevin and Claude Julien to fix things.
- If Bergevin is determined to win this season, there’s a very good chance some sort of trade comes down to add scoring help. The GM isn’t dealing from a position of strength, and even with Molson’s backing there are no job safety guarantees in this NHL.
- Nothing went the Habs’ way last night. No one looked sharp outside of the fourth-liners, and that’s a recipe for disaster. As bad as the Oilers have been, they have the pieces capable of tuning up an unprepared team, and that’s what they did. Price isn’t always going to be this off, and the bounces aren’t always going to go the way they did tonight.
- Daniel Carr has earned a promotion with his strong play since being called up. He hustles relentlessly and has plenty of finishing skill. Giving him a run out in the top six or at least the top nine is a sound idea.