The first of back-to-back Super Bowl matinées saw the Habs welcome the NHL-leading Washington Capitals to the Bell Centre. After a less-than-inspiring effort in a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, it was revealed that David Desharnais would be a healthy scratch, with Sven Andrighetto taking his place in the Canadiens’ lineup.
Another subplot entering this one was the Canadiens’ dubious record of 4-10-1 against the top teams in the NHL, something they’ll have to improve on down the stretch if they’re going to make any noise come playoff time.
Just over three minutes into the opening period, it was the road team striking first as Jay Beagle wristed a perfect shot off the post and past a partially screened Carey Price.
Shortly after, Matt Niskanen took Jacob de la Rose hard into the boards behind Braden Holtby’s net. A lengthy delay followed upon the discovery of a hole in the boards created by the impact of de la Rose’s skate.
Despite the fact that the hole wasn’t big enough for a puck to fit through, the officiating crew decided that it would be a hazard to players if the game continued, so they decided to make repairs.
In the tunnel, it was the job of the ice crew to create a new dasher board. After a 12-minute delay, the game was ready to resume.
The Canadiens came out strong after the delay. January’s Molson Cup-winner, Max Pacioretty, kept the play alive in the Washington zone. He got the puck over to Phillip Danault who fed Alexander Radulov, who made no mistake for his 13th goal and 40th point of the season to tie it at one.
Tomas Plekanec nearly gave the Habs the lead a few minutes later, when a Shea Weber shot bounced off the boards right to the Czech centre, but he put it off the post.
The first half of the second period went by without incident, as both teams went back and forth without many quality chances. About halfway through the period, Washington struck again. Off an Alex Galchenyuk turnover at the offensive blue line, Brett Connolly broke out and fed Andre Burakovsky, who was able to beat Price with yet another perfect shot, this time short side.
Later in the period, Radulov looked to once again respond for the Canadiens. He gained the zone on a two-on-one with Pacioretty, showed patience to wait out a sliding John Carlson, then sniped it past Holtby. The goal was immediately waved off, however, as Pacioretty had made contact with the Capitals’ goaltender, and the marker was disallowed on the grounds of goalie interference.
Radulov broke in again shortly after, using one hand on his stick and the other to fend off the defender. He cut to the net but was stymied by Holtby. Washington came back and tried to double their lead late in the frame, but Price was there to make back-to-back massive saves, first on Alex Ovechkin and then Justin Williams.
Montreal trailed 2-1 after two, and headed into the third looking to come back against a Washington team that was 25-1-1 when leading after 40 minutes this season.
Early in the third, Radulov, who had been the Canadiens’ best player up to that point, took a pretty soft penalty in the offensive zone. On the ensuing man advantage, Nicklas Backstrom snapped a shot glove-side past Price to give the Caps a two-goal lead.
Radulov would redeem himself later in the period, as he was able to feed Pacioretty in front. His first shot was blocked but he buried the rebound for his 25th goal of the season to bring Montreal within one.
This article may be sounding repetitive, but it was Radulov once again who was front and centre in the fight to tie the game, as he found a wide-open Galchenyuk in the slot, but Holtby was able to make a huge save on the Canadiens forward in front.
In the final minute, it was Holtby once again coming up big on Montreal’s best player, as he denied Radulov on the doorstep before smothering the puck after a mad scramble.
In the dying seconds, Galchenyuk centred for a winding-up Weber, but the puck hopped over his stick and the Capitals hung on to beat the Canadiens 3-2 in a thrilling matinée contest.
- Every time the puck touches Alexander Radulov’s stick you can sense that something is about to happen. That’s definitely something the Habs have lacked in their lineup for a while. He does take a lot of poorly timed penalties though.
- Max Pacioretty has 25 goals on the season, which is just three back of the league lead. Has anyone benefited more from the acquisition of Radulov than the Canadiens’ captain?
- Phillip Danault left the game with an upper-body injury. He’s been an important part of the forward group for the Canadiens this year and will be missed if he’s out for any length of time. Does Bergevin go out and add a centreman before the deadline or does this spell the return of Michael McCarron?
The Canadiens are back in action tomorrow afternoon, when they play at 1:00 PM EST for the second day in a row, this time against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.