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Canadiens vs. Canucks game recap: Habs win a goaltending duel in Vancouver

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Carey Price and the Canadiens eke out an overtime win over the Canucks.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens opened the game to a rousing “Go Habs Go” chant from the numerous Habs fans in attendance, letting that energy fuel the pace as the play moved quickly up and down the ice.

The Canucks got the first few chances, including a two-on-one, deftly played by Jordie Benn, allowing Carey Price to take the shooter and make the save.

A broken play in the offensive zone allowed Andrew Shaw to chip the puck out from the half boards and out to the point, where Andrei Markov took a quick wrist shot. Torrey Mitchell, all alone in front of the net, tipped the puck in behind Ryan Miller to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead. It was his first goal since December 8th.

The Canucks responded with some quick rushes up the ice, all ending in soft shots from the outside stopped by Price or quick clears by the Canadiens, sending the puck back to the offensive zone. Phillip Danault forced a turnover in the neutral zone, flipping the puck to Brendan Gallagher at the blue line, creating a two-on-one with Max Pacioretty, ending in a wide shot.

Canucks would continue to press, spending time in the Canadiens’ end with few good quality chances.

An ill-advised drop pass by Paul Byron led to a Vancouver rush, foiled by, inexplicably, a speedy, back-checking Byron. He was able to atone for his mistake and the Canadiens then charged back up the ice, with Shaw’s persistence on the puck creating a powerplay chance when Troy Stecher was called for interference.

After some difficulty initially setting up on the powerplay, the Canadiens managed a few good shots from the point, but none could find their way past the mass of humanity in front of Ryan Miller.

On a Vancouver rush, Sven Baertschi managed to pass the puck to a sneaking Nikolay Goldobin. Price was able to get a pad out to stop the shot in close and maintain the Canadiens’ lead.

As the Canadiens headed up ice, Luca Sbisa threw an arm out to trip a streaking Max Pacioretty, stopping a breakaway but handing the Canadiens their second powerplay opportunity of the period. Despite a good look or two, the Canucks managed to kill off their penalty yet again.

The Canadiens opened the second with some good offensive pressure but quickly put themselves at a disadvantage when Danault was called for slashing on the forecheck.

A golden opportunity for a shorthanded breakaway was missed when Steve Ott couldn’t connect with a streaking Artturi Lehkonen, but the Caadiens managed to kill off the remainder of the penalty.

Anxious moments ensued after a funny carom off the backboards sent the puck almost through the crease behind Price. A series of chances for the Canucks followed but a combination of quality blocks and solid saves helped the Canadiens maintain their lead.

Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

With seven minutes to go, Andreas Martinsen’s pressure on the forecheck forced Alex Edler to toss the puck over the glass sending the Canadiens to their third powerplay of the game. Despite a quicker set-up and more zone time by the Habs this go-around, the Canucks managed to stifle any dangerous chances.

Brendan Gallagher managed a partial breakaway into the Canucks end off an Andrei Markov stretch pass but Miller was able to reach out to get a piece of Gallagher’s shot. The second period closed down with the Canucks trying to put on more pressure, but every zone entry was stifled by the aggressive Canadiens.

The third opened with the two teams trading zone time. A quality chance for Vancouver on an open Montreal net was broken up by Alex Galchenyuk, sending the play back to the Canucks’ end.

Right after, another quality defensive play by Galchenyuk stopped a Vancouver shot right from the goal mouth as he managed to clear the puck from the Canadiens’ end.

A clearing attempt by Price provided another golden opportunity for the Canucks in tight but Price was equal to the task, the crowd showing their appreciation with some “CAREY” chants. The Habs countered immediately with chances for Lehkonen and Galchenyuk to no avail.

The teams continued to trade chances until Michael Chaput was able to tip a Stecher point shot into the net, a mirror image of the Canadiens’ goal.

The Canucks gained momentum from the tying goal, creating chances in the Canadiens’ zone. A scramble at the corner of the Canadiens’ net had the puck open in a pile of bodies for a while before the Habs were able to clear it to safety.

The Canucks continued to pour on the pressure as regulation ended, Price standing tall and making saves until the very last second, sending the game to overtime.

The extra time began tentatively until a weak shot from Galchenyuk in the slot pinballed towards the net and off of Byron, fooling Miller just enough to bounce across the goal line and give the Habs their 6th win in a row.

Thoughts

  • For the most part, the Habs have been doing an increasingly good job at keeping shots to the outside, making Price’s workload a little lighter. That may have played to their advantage tonight for, when they started to lose a little energy towards the end of the game, Price was still fresh enough to keep them in it.
  • The addition of Jordie Benn has made Nathan Beaulieu play like his best self. Their constant communication on the ice makes sure they’re (almost) always on the same page, able to cover for each other and hopefully increasing Beaulieu’s comfort and consistency with making the smart and solid play.
  • This new incarnation of the Canadiens is the most aggressive we’ve seen in a long time. They’re quick to the puck, hard along the boards, and winning the little battles. It’s a marked difference from the defensively passive team we’ve become accustomed to and it’s a welcome change moving forward.