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Canadiens vs. Islanders game recap: A back-and-forth affair goes the way of Tavares & co.

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The Habs get just a point, despite a 56-shot effort.

NHL: JAN 15 Islanders at Canadiens Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another strong game, and another disappointing ending.

Following a shootout loss against the rival Boston Bruins, the Canadiens knew they needed to get off to a strong start against John Tavares and the New York Islanders in order to pull off a win.

They did just the opposite.

Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

The Mathew Barzal line began their work early, after dominating the New York Rangers in their last game, and would be a threat all night long for the Canadiens.

After the Habs placed early pressure on goaltender Thomas Griess, the Islanders’ counter-attacked with speed through the neutral zone; a common theme in this game. Barzal dished the puck off to Quebec native Anthony Beauvillier, who had time and space to put the puck past Price for the early 1-0 lead.

Only five minutes after that goal, Barzal’s speed burned the Canadiens once again, and he beat Price cleanly over the glove.

The Islanders’ first two goals were started in their own defensive zone, showing how much the transition game was a weakness in Montreal’s game plan.

However, it wouldn’t take long for the Canadiens to show some life, and it was Nicolas Deslauriers continuing to prove his worth to the team, scoring his sixth of the season and his second in as many games.

The play was started by Jakub Jerabek putting the puck on the goal, and he was rewarded with his first NHL point in the process.

Montreal seemed to find a jump in their step following that, and had three quick chances following the goal, including a shot from Brendan Gallagher in the slot which was swallowed up quickly by Greiss.

With seven minutes remaining in the opening frame, the Canadiens were rewarded with some puck luck, as newly appointed center Paul Byron was granted a glorious bounce, leading to the tying goal for the Habs.

The second period became a back-and-forth affair between the two teams. Adam Pelech and Tavares scored two goals only minutes apart, with the latter coming on a short-handed breakaway, frustrating Carey Price in the process.

The Islanders were prone to undisciplined play, and it almost led to David Schlemko’s first goal of the season. A challenge from head coach Doug Weight got the goal overturned on the grounds of an offside zone entry before the goal occurred.

The Canadiens didn’t let up the fight, as they led in shots 23-10 halfway through the period, and kept sustained pressure for the majority of the period.

This pressure paid off for the Habs near the end of the period, as strong forechecking allowed the puck to be cycled cleanly around the zone, finding Jerabek who usds a shifty head fake to get a clear lane to the net. It generated a rebound for Drouin, who made no mistake as he snapped a 13-game goalless drought dating back to November 27.

Note Galchenyuk in this play. He starts the cycle by using his awareness to get the puck to open space, and heads to the front of the net, battling Thomas Hickey, which ultimately creates space for Drouin to score.

Montreal kept up the pressure throughout the third period, and an ill-timed New York penalty allowed them to convert on the man advantage. Some quick and effective passing between Galchenyuk, Drouin, and Petry resulted in a shot deflected by Max Pacioretty, who has been finally heating up as of late, now scoring in four consecutive games.

The Canadiens had a whopping 50 shots by the end of regulation, and showed no signs of slowing down until the period ended, keeping the Islanders on their toes till the end.

Pacioretty nearly ended the game early in overtime, as he generated an impressive chance early, sending the Islanders defence into a frenzy.

Despite such a strong effort, it would prove to be fruitless, as Tavares sealed the deal just moments later, winning the game for the Islanders by a 5-4 final.

Thoughts

  • I’ve been pumping their tires a lot lately in recent articles, but Galchenyuk and Drouin are clicking together, and that spells only good things for the Habs. They combined for Drouin’s goal tonight, and despite him not assisting on Pacioretty’s marker, Drouin made the initial cross-ice feed to Galchenyuk before it moved on to Petry. He also set up Galchenyuk in his sweet spot at the right circle in the third period, but number 27 whiffed on the shot.
  • Galchenyuk especially, has been brilliant lately, and was once again last night with five shots on goal, two assists, and one power-play point. His legs were moving, and his awareness and skill was on full display.
  • Jakub Jerabek recovered from a difficult start, nabbing his first two NHL points. His assist on the second goal was quite impressive, showing excellent puck-handling and skating ability.
  • The Canadiens have something going for them in recent games despite the outcomes. Last night they executed a lot of crisp passing and cycling in the offensive zone, even at five-on-five. They’re starting to find an effective play style, and it was working well on Monday.
  • Boston is back on the Habs radar, as they travel to TD Garden on Wednesday. Two out of a possible four points so far is good, but they will need to get more than the loser point from the Bruins in a few nights’ time.