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Canadiens vs. Red Wings game recap: Entering the playoffs on a high note

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The Canadiens beat the Wings in overtime to end their regular season.

Montreal Canadiens v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens rolled into Detroit to play the Red Wings in their final game of the season on Saturday night, in the penutimate game played at Joe Louis Arena.

They iced a sparse lineup, as most regulars were still at home in Montreal, resting in anticipation of Wednesday’s playoff start.

A quick recognition of employees and fans as part of the Farewell to the Joe gave Michigan-native Jeff Petry the opportunity to take part in the ceremonial puck drop.

The game got off to a slow start. After an early icing, the two teams traded chances without a whistle for four minutes until an Artturi Lehkonen shot was deflected out of play.

The Canadiens had a few chances to open the scoring, first from a slick pass by Phillip Danault to Paul Byron for a quick backhand shot and then a two-on-one with Steve Ott and Alex Galchenyuk, both ending in quality saves by Petr Mrazek.

Montreal continued to create scoring chances as Brendan Gallagher and Byron’s chemistry, even in the absence of Plekanec, remained apparent.

The Red Wings netminder kept the game scoreless, though, allowing his team to then create some pressure in the offensive zone. The Canadiens looked to stifle the Wings’ scoring hopes when an Andreas Martinsen clearing attempt took a bad bounce off the stanchion, landing right on the stick of Darren Helm. A quick pass to Frans Nielsen and a flip of the puck over Charlie Lindgren’s shoulder created the game’s first goal.

The period would end with the Canadiens pressuring a bit in the offensive zone but looking none too dangerous.

Lindgren opened the second with some key saves to keep the Habs within one. The Canadiens then got a chance to even the score when, three minutes in, Danny Dekeyser sat for hooking.

The Habs managed some good looks in close but it was a Nathan Beaulieu bomb from the point that tied the game at one.

Halfway through the period, a lazy looking rush by the Canadiens nearly allowed them to take the lead as a rebound off the lively end boards gave them a chance at an open net. Instead, Larkin would give the Red Wings back the lead at the other end with a one-timer from the hashmarks after a beautiful cross-ice pass from Tomas Tatar caught Lindgren as he moved laterally.

They took the momentum from the goal, almost widening the gap with a goalmouth scrum but a sprawling Lindgren was able to cover the puck and stop the play.

The Habs managed to tie the score once again when, in transition, Lehkonen put pressure on the Wings down low, leading to a failed clearing attempt. He moved to screen Mrazek as Nesterov shot from the point, and though Mrazek made the initial save, Lehkonen was there to tap the puck in from the top of the crease with just a minute remaining in the second frame.

The third opened with scoring chance early on as Byron and Gallagher rushed into the Red Wings zone for what may have been Byron’s slowest rush of his career. The lack of speed may have thrown the diminutive winger off as he got in too close to the aggressive Mrazek and shot the puck wide, out of the reach of Gallagher.

Detroit had its own chance to go ahead later. A horizontal Lindgren left the net wide open as Nyquist and Tatar combined for a glorious chance point-blank. Beaulieu and Brett Lernout had their goalie’s back as they combined to make the save in the crease behind Lindgren and keep the game tied at twos.

Lindgren continued his aggressive style against the Wings, getting bumped by Helm outside the crease as a consequence. Detroit still controlled the puck, however, and a dedicated Lindgren dove back to make a save, launching himself ribs-first into the post. While that move didn’t look like it felt great, he shook it off and stayed in the game.

Gallagher had a chance to give the Canadiens their first lead of the game with just three minutes left on an odd-man rush but he shot wide. He then gave the Red Wings a chance to take the lead once again as, with 10 seconds left, he turned the puck over, forcing Lindgren to make one last 10-bell save. Lindgren came up big, Gallagher was able to clear, and the teams headed to overtime, both one meaningless point richer.

A goalmouth scrum nearly gave the Canadiens the win early on but they were unable to beat Mrazek. The Red Wings responded with a Dylan Larkin rush, played aggressively by Lindgren who swallowed the puck up.

Back in the Red Wings’ end, Nikita Nesterov’s pressure on Mike Green caused the defenceman to turn the puck over at the hashmarks. Nesterov passed the puck to a wide-open Galchenyuk in the slot and the sniper’s one-timer flew past Mrazek to give the Habs the win in their final game of the regular season.

Thoughts

  • Hopefully that winning goal — Galchenyuk’s fifth overtime marker of the season — will spark the winger as the Habs head into the playoff. A hot Galchenyuk through the post-season would be a beautiful thing.
  • Charlie Lindgren is undefeated in the NHL. The kid has looked solid in both games this year and, while his idea of the butterfly more closely resembles the swimming stroke than the goaltending stance, it’s because of his aggressive style. He’s going to be good for a while.
  • For such a random mix of players and lines, the Canadiens looked decent. The players and the system are running like a well-oiled machine at a fantastic time of year.
  • PLAYOFFS!