As Carey Price made a save on Jamie Benn’s early breakaway, le Tricolore would quickly lose what energy they came out with when Nathan Beaulieu’s pass up the middle to Andrew Shaw went awry. With the puck recovered off Shaw’s stick at the blue line, Curtis McKenzie was able to tuck one past Price to make it 1-0 for the Stars before two minutes had elapsed.
Dallas continued to apply pressure through the early minutes of the first period, as the Habs were barely able to make their way through the neutral zone. It was Alexei Emelin who got the Bell Centre going with a bomb of a hit on Jamie Benn.
Starting to find their legs once again toward the halfway mark of the frame, the Canadiens’ first scoring chance came at the hands of Artturi Lehkonen. He outworked the Stars’ defence corps down the middle, but his attempt was rebuffed by Kari Lehtonen.
The fourth line followed up by generating a little buzz of their own, effectively shifting the momentum of the game toward the midway mark. Chances came from all four lines as the Canadiens kept the Stars hemmed in their zone for shifts at a time, but despite their best efforts (and a few beautiful plays from Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty), they would head to the dressing room trailing by one after 20.
Coming out for the second period just as they finished the last, Phillip Danault’s early effort to outmuscle the opposition’s defense was not enough to beat the Stars goaltender.
Breaking away from the the Canadiens’ onslaught, Devin Shore kept Price sharp as he came in with speed to try to cut across the crease, and Jordie Benn would impress on the puck recovery, going end to end, leading the rush and firing the puck at the net.
The chances for Montreal kept coming as the team’s top nine kept Dallas chasing the puck. A turnover in the offensive zone saw Tomas Plekanec find Brendan Gallagher in the slot, but Lehtonen continued to stymie the Canadiens offence.
A late hit from Stephen Johns on Dwight King had Beaulieu dropping the gloves with less than five minutes to go in the second. The Habs turned the heat up to 11 when Danault, from the slot, dropped the puck to Pacioretty, who shovelled it in on the backhand less than a minute later.
Likely unsatisfied with their performance through the middle frame, the Stars opened the final period with a flurry of chances in the offensive zone, as Price twirled around on his head to keep his team in the game.
It was Brendan Gallagher who was able to give the Habs the lead for the first time after 44 minutes of play when Paul Byron chipped the puck up the ice. Gallagher surprised Lehtonen with a wrist shot that beat him cleanly.
After a scary couple of seconds that featured the Canadiens’ captain crash into the boards, Pacioretty thankfully remained on the bench, easing the worried minds of Habs fans everywhere.
When Tomas Plekanec was called for holding midway through the third, the Canadiens held on thanks to a solid penalty kill, and eventually gained a two-goal lead when, minutes later, Lehkonen pulled a Shea Weber to hammer a knucklepuck home, awarding Markov his 572nd point. Markov is now tied for second place with Guy Lapointe for the all-time points lead by a Canadiens defenceman.
With less than two minutes to go, Alexander Radulov set off to the races and put the game out of reach with a patented backhand shot for his 15th of the year.
A slashing call to Jamie Benn sent the Habs to the power play with just 1:18 remaining in the third, and though they were unable to capitalize, the Canadiens skated out of the Bell Centre with a 4-1 victory under their belts.
The Canadiens will play their penultimate home game of the regular season Thursday night against the Florida Panthers ahead of a three-game road trip.
- The Byron-Plekanec-Gallagher line was all over the ice all night long. Plekanec and Gallagher have been paying better and better as the games go by, which will prove interesting, and hopefully fruitful, come the post-season.
- A less-than-favourable move from Nathan Beaulieu early in the first period gave the opposition the advantage through most of two periods, but #28 sure did everything in his power to make up for it after the fact: joining the rush, taking a few good shots, and dropping his glove to come to the aid of a teammate. This is what I love about Beaulieu. He’s the guy who’s never satisfied and will do whatever he can to prove his worth.
- Artturi Lehkonen is a magnificent beast. That’s all.