The Montreal Canadiens welcomed Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers to the Bell Centre on Sunday afternoon. Hoping to reverse the team’s recent fortunes, Michel Therrien tweaked his lineup prior to the game by starting Al Montoya in net, moving David Desharnais to centre, and shifting Alex Galchenyuk to left wing.
A sluggish start to the opening frame never really improved for the team, as the Canadiens struggled to find their legs as the game wore on. McDavid was the recipient of a few questionable calls against the home side, as first Shea Weber was sent off for tripping before Nathan Beaulieu was tagged for hooking the Oilers’ captain just minutes later. Montreal managed to kill off both penalties to escape the period unscathed.
While the infractions may have been debatable, which side was the better team in the period was not. Edmonton looked less like a team that had lost their previous three games and more like the club that had sat atop the Pacific Division standings for a good portion of the year. Shots after 20 minutes were 15-8 in the Oilers’ favour.
An Alexei Emelin slapshot that rang off the post early on in the period and Jacob de la Rose’s denied breakaway attempt in the dying minutes were the closest the team came to getting on the board.
The second period started off much like the first, with the Oilers continuing to outshoot the Canadiens. Edmonton’s persistence nearly paid off, when a little less than halfway through they seemed to have gotten on the board first. But video review confirmed that it wasn’t a legal goal as the whistle had gone before the puck crossed the line, and the game remained tied at nil.
McDavid drew his third penalty of the night from a Habs defender, as Emelin was sent off for hooking. That opportunity was cut short, however, when Drake Caggiula was sentenced to two minutes in the box for interfering with Tomas Plekanec on a short-handed chance. Despite the exchange of power plays, both teams headed into the third with no goals between them.
The Canadiens seemed more determined to get the win in the final frame, with a few good looks on Cam Tambot as first the Desharnais trio established the cycle in the offensive zone and then handed off to Danault’s top trio on the fly. The zone time was sustained for a lengthy stretch, though the Habs were too concerned with setting up passing plays and failing to put the puck on net.
Despite the obvious uptick in intensity, the Habs mustered only five shots on goal in the third, their highest period total being the eight they posted in the first frame.
Their fortunes weren’t helped any when Andrew Shaw took yet another minor penalty in the back half of the third period. This one came right at the tail end of that offensive-zone pressure, though at least occcurring in the defensive zone while trying to prevent the Oilers from scoring. Fortunately for both him and his playing time, the penalty kill came through for a fourth and final time to bail the beleaguered forward out.
Another eight minutes of fairly uneventful play followed, leaving the game scoreless after two and offering the promise of some open play in a five-minute three-on-three overtime period.
Excitement just wasn’t on the docket this day, however, and the two teams played a conservative style in extra time, more often than not opting to regroup for a new setup than attempting to make an aggressive offensive play.
The best chance belonged to the Oilers, as McDavid once again took centre stage with the game on his stick on an overtime break. He got behind the defence to go one-on-one with Al Montoya, but the netminder maintained his ground and thwarted the golden opportunity.
The overtime period came to a close with both goaltenders claiming a point for their team and getting credit for a shutout as well, and had one final say in the game’s outcome in a three-round shootout.
Unfortunately for Montoya, his goalless run came to an end on the Oilers’ first attempt, when Leon Draisaitl put his side up a goal.
Having stopped Alexander Radulov of the attempt before, Talbot wrapped up his afternoon by stopping both Paul Byron and Max Pacioretty on his next two shots faced, making the final play of what was a perfect game for him. The 1-0 win halted Edmonton’s losing streak at three games and extended Montreal’s to that number.
- Andrew Shaw’s disappointing season continued on Sunday. The minor penalty didn’t end up costing his team this time, but he’s not providing enough positives to outweigh his string of negatives. At the time of its signing, his contract seemed like something the team could stomach if he was able to play to his potential as an offensively-minded agitator, but so far the agitation has mostly been felt by those on the Habs’ side of the equation.
- Al Montoya extended his personal record to five straight games without a regulation loss, seeing a four-game win streak come to an end but helping to earn the Habs another point. You can’t ask for anything more from the backup netminder.
- The Habs were once again on the wrong side of the possession and scoring chance battle. They will have played eight games in 13 days before the mandatory five-day break a week from now, and could do with a strong start and a comfortable, consistent effort in a few of their remaining four games before then.
The first — and best — of those chances is Tuesday night when they take on Mark Barberio, Matt Duchene, and the league-worst Colorado Avalanche in Denver.