The Montreal Canadiens headed to the Canadian Tire Centre to solidify their perch atop the Atlantic Division. Separated by just a single point from the Ottawa Senators with the top spot still on the line, coach Claude Julien shook up his defence pairings. Nathan Beaulieu drew back into the lineup, while Alexei Emelin was made a healthy scratch.
The opening period was a fast and chippy affair, with the Canadiens quickly finding their feet early on. Despite the recent history of bad blood between the two clubs, the referees saw fit to let both teams play it out.
Though Montreal peppered Craig Anderson with more shots than Ottawa managed on Price, neither team was able to break the deadlock. After nearly lasting an entire period without drawing a penalty, Mark Borowiecki was sent off for high-sticking Max Pacioretty. Montreal lasted less than a minute on the man advantage, before a questionable slashing call went against Phillip Danault.
Four-on-four hockey didn’t produce any goals and as the period came to an end, with the Canadiens headed back to locker room to prepare for a brief upcoming penalty kill.
Heading into the second down a man, the Canadiens successfully weathered a shortened Senators power play that saw a dangerous shot from Kyle Turris ring off the post. As the penalty expired, Danault got a great opportunity to put his club on the board first, but Anderson denied his breakaway attempt to keep it a scoreless game.
Danault would get another chance, when he took advantage of Artturi Lehkonen’s tenacious forecheck to find Andrew Shaw alone in front of the Senators’ net. Shaw made no mistake, putting the puck into the open net to score his 11th of the season and give Montreal the first lead in the game less than three minutes into the second.
But Danault’s tripping penalty on a defensive lunge at the puck over halfway through the period sent the Ottawa Senators back on the power play. Derick Brassard wristed one past Price on the resulting man advantage to knot the game at one apiece.
Just over a minute later, the Senators parlayed that momentum into their first lead of the game, when Ryan Dzingel’s harmless-looking shot hit Price’s skate and slid to the back of the net.
Undeterred, the Canadiens went into the final frame looking for a tying goal, and just over six minutes in they found it. Danault got his second dose of redemption as he pulled a sweet deke to fool Anderson and tie the game at two. Linemates Lehkonen and Shaw grabbed helpers on Danault’s 11th goal of the season.
Less then a minute later, Brendan Gallagher restored Montreal’s lead. Gallagher outworked Senators defender Dion Phaneuf to take a tight-angle shot that found the back of the net.
Spurred by the lead change, the Senators started amping up pressure in the Canadiens’ end throughout the rest of the period. Ottawa’s persistence led to a power play opportunity halfway through the frame when Brandon Davidson got two minutes for hooking.
Though Turris rang another puck off the post on the resulting man advantage, the Senators were more adept at hitting Bobby Ryan, who acted as an extra penalty killer for the Canadiens. Thanks to his assistance, Montreal escaped unscathed.
But a regulation win slipped through the hands of the Canadiens, when Erik Karlsson beat Price to knot the game at three.
Despite the best efforts of the Lehkonen-Danault-Shaw line in the dying minutes of the third, the game was sent to overtime.
Neither team was able to muster scoring chances in extra time. A late holding call that went against Pacioretty allowed the Senators to ice an extra skater until time ran out. But the Canadiens penalty kill was up for the challenge and managed to get the game to a shootout.
Ottawa sent Bobby Ryan out first and he rang his shot off the post. Montreal sent out Paul Byron, who beat Anderson cleanly. The Senators responded with Kyle Turris who failed to get the puck past Price for the third time in the game. The Canadiens answered with Alex Radulov, who buried his attempt and the Ottawa Senators in the process.
- The Lehkonen-Danault-Shaw combination was Montreal’s best line in this game. The trio combined to put up two goals and five points on the night and the Canadiens controlled over 64% of even-strength shot attempts while they were on the ice. A combination of relentless forechecking, short passes and a nose for getting to the net produced several great scoring chances throughout the game. And despite the two questionable penalties assessed to Danault, both Lehkonen and more notably Shaw remained disciplined (with Shaw even going on to draw a penalty in the third).
- Both Beaulieu and Jordie Benn ended up being the Canadiens’ top defencemen in this game. Montreal controlled over 65% of even-strength shot attempts while Beaulieu was on the ice and over 62% of even-strength shot attempts while Benn was on. If anything, Beaulieu has given enough of a reason in this game to remain in the lineup over Emelin for at least a couple more games.
- This Canadiens don’t really have anything to lose in this division battle. The tight race for top spot in the Atlantic will give them plenty of practice for the gruelling nature of the playoffs. If the Senators do manage to grab first place in the division, they will need to face a strong New York Rangers club that has been muscled out of the Metro, but one that the Habs have handled recently if they are to hang on to top spot. New York and Ottawa have only met once in the playoffs, and the Rangers came out ahead. It would also set up a rivalry-renewing first-round series between the Boston Bruins and the Habs — and who doesn’t want to see these two clubs to meet in the post-season?