With Carey Price back in the net, and Karl Alzner back on the blue line, the Montreal Canadiens faced the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night. The team honoured Tomas Plekanec in a touching tribute, complete with turtlenecks, and then the game began.
And it certainly began with a bang. The Blues had the first pressure in the offensive zone, but then their struggling defense had no answer for Max Domi on the counter-attack, as he scored his first Canadiens goal on the backhand only 39 seconds in.
Only moments thereafter, Patrick Maroon challenged Jordie Benn to a fight. Both teams played a physical game through the first half of the period, both teams throwing big hits in addition to the fight.
The game settled down after that, but the Habs looked pretty good, skating, stealing pucks on the forecheck, blocking shots, and getting some nice chances, including a beauty for Tomas Tatar.
The Habs did get stuck in their own end with under eight minutes to go, but killed off the resulting Brendan Gallagher slashing call with ease. They drew a power play of their own in the final five minutes, but despite good looks from Artturi Lehkonen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, they were unable to beat Jake Allen. Joel Armia joined his fellow Finns with a good scoring chance in the final seconds of the period, but he also didn't capitalize.
Montreal early power play in the second suffered the fate of many early power plays, and was pretty dreadful — though fortunately dreadful in the sense of multiple clears, not dreadful as in allowing short-handed goals, though it did end with Hudon being sent to the box.
Unlike the Habs, the Blues did capitalize on their power play, tying it up at 3:21.
After their goal, St. Louis caused Montreal all kinds of problems, largely in their own zone, but Tatar and Mikey Reilly counter-punched, and Tatar drew another power play. The advantage got off to a shaky start, but they pulled themselves together, and Reilly scored on a scorcher.
St. Louis once again countered, but Price held them off, and the Habs’ speed eventually allowed them to get out of trouble. The Habs power play got another chance at the end of the period, but after one strong shift by the first group, it was decidedly anticlimactic.
Armia took a tripping call, but the Habs killed it off in the first five minutes, and it once again led to a Blues push. Montreal held them off, and continued to hold them off, even through the Hudon penalty in the later stages of the third. Unfortunately, that was not the case on a Matthew Peca penalty, and the Habs gave up the tying goal to Brayden Schenn with 3:29 to go.
The goal seemed to act like a much needed wake-up call for Montreal, who picked up the pace considerably thereafter.
Just to keep things interesting, the game remained tied until the last 10 seconds, when the hockey gods decided to point and laugh at the Blues. Colton Parayko whiffed on a simple D-to-D pass to his partner, and Brendan Gallagher tipped the puck past Allen for the game-winner.
Though the Habs got lulled to sleep on a few occasions, and gave up more high-danger scoring chances than perhaps strictly comfortable, it was a fun game to watch, and except in the aforementioned lulls, the Habs looked good in their third straight win.
- Despite being the smaller team, the Habs had absolutely no problem hitting everything blue that moved early on, as well as simply being faster.
- It's so comforting to see Carey Price looking like his former self in the net, even when he's not making incredible saves. Of course, he also was key at several points through the latter stages of a very close game.
- Hard work, location, timing, and hilarity. Could you get a more peak Gally goal than that?