After winning their game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before, the Colorado Avalanche continued their road trip in a visit with the Montreal Canadiens. The Western Conference club had a chance to extend its winning streak to 11 games with a victory at the Bell Centre.
The Habs were the better team out of the gate, starting off aggressively and keeping the Avs in their own end on their first few shifts. That level of intensity didn’t hold up for the entire period, but the Canadiens were on their game in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the opposition 10-5 and playing a physical style to prevent Colorado from transitioning the puck up the ice.
Charles Hudon an Artturi Lehkonen had the best chances, but just as the story has gone all year long, their work around the net didn’t get rewarded with a goal. Hudon led all skaters with three shots on target, with a few other chances that he just missed getting his stick on.
Despite starting off the second period in a similar fashion, the Canadiens’ momentum could have been brought to a crashing halt as David Schlemko was called for an offensive-zone high-sticking penalty. Fortunately, the Habs’ dominance in the faceoff circle carried over to the short-handed situation, winning the opening draw to prevent the Avalanche from establishing pressure. It helped them to get the best chance while short-handed, with Paul Byron nearly getting in alone if not for a last-minute check from Nail Yakupov.
With the penalty handily killed off, the Canadiens went back to work in the offensive zone, and it didn’t take long for them to get rewarded. Jonathan Drouin’s line got the puck to the slot, and it sat in the middle of ice for a moment until Nicolas Deslauriers was able to poke it through a screen and past Jonathan Bernier to open the scoring.
There was no let-up from the team after the goal, and the Habs proceeded to draw a power play on their next shift, with Brendan Gallagher getting taken down behind Colorado’s net.
On the ensuing power play, Drouin moved the puck from the boards right across the front of the net to a waiting Alex Galchenyuk on the other side, and a familiar one-timer gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead.
The Avalanche looked dangerous on a power play of their own shortly afterward, but the penalty kill did its job to survive the flurry. As it had all night, the play shifted back in the Canadiens’ favour for the remainder of the period, and they took two-goal lead into the second intermission.
Playing their second game of a back-to-back, the Avs seemed to run out of steam, with the Canadiens’ dominance ramping up even further. It created two more power plays for the home side in the opening half of the third, on which the Habs showed a lot of creativity despite not being able to score. Both units had several good looks, with good work from Jeff Petry on the first wave and Victor Mete on the second reloading the attack from the blue line.
Petry’s impressive play continued to five-on-five play, and it was his drive into the offensive zone with possession, followed by a great pass across to a net-driving Drouin, that put Montreal up 3-0.
The Avalanche did draw closer just second later, when Nathan MacKinnon kept his hot streak going to make it a two-goal game.
Brendan Gallagher ensured it wasn’t the start of a comeback for the Avs, taking the puck down the ice with Bernier on the bench and restoring the three-goal lead with a shot from just past centre ice.
J.T. Compher added a goal with 12 seconds left, but it had little impact on a game the Habs controlled, earning a 4-2 win on home ice.
- Charles Hudon and Artturi Lehkonen has four shots apiece, but were still unable to find the scoresheet. Hudon now has 35 shots on goal since his last tally on December 2, while Lehkonen hasn’t scored since October. Both players are often among the best on the team on a nightly basis in terms of offensive zone time and shots on goal, they just haven’t been converting. They’re not going to maintain this anemic level of production for long, but the fact they’re able to simply plug away and keep creating chances when they must believe there’s no hope of a goal highlights their impressive work ethic.
- Nicolas Deslauriers, on the other hand.... His goal pointed to just how finicky goal-scoring can be, as his seventh goal of the hear was a simple poke at a loose puck that beat the goaltender. He’s probably regarded as some type of wizard by the two wingers mentioned above, but he does deserve the success he’s been finding. Since being recalled, he’s worked hard on every shift, and has a nose for the net when he gets a chance with the puck. There’s little to dislike about his game, and he’ll probably be sticking with team for at least a few more seasons.