It was supposed to be a battle at the bottom of the Atlantic Division between the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators, but both organizations have had surprising starts to the season. They have both taken on the identity of hard working teams and it seems to be a winning recipe early in the season as Ottawa beat the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime on Saturday night.
The game got off to a crazy start with a high-event first few seconds. Some lapses in the defensive coverage led to the Senators getting a great scoring chance. Carey Price, who had read the play made the save. The Habs came right back the other way and Thomas Chabot is forced to take a penalty.
The Canadiens power play had a slightly new look as Jonathan Drouin moved to the point. The different strategy didn’t result in a goal on the Habs’ first attempt, but when they get a second chance a few minutes later, Drouin started the play to get the puck to Max Domi, who made no mistake with the shot as the Canadiens took the lead.
Less than a minute later, Phillip Danault made it 2-0. Paul Byron carried the puck in the offensive zone, passed it to Artturi Lehkonen, who gave it back to Byron, to Danault, and a beautiful shot beat Craig Anderson.
Unfortunately the lead would not stand. Later in the first period, Karl Alzner tried to settle a bouncing puck in his zone, and the heavy pressure of the Sens created the turnover to make it 2-1.
The Habs didn’t fold, and kept applying pressure shortly after, displaying the approach to the game we have seen from them since the start of the season. Beautiful execution and some great work along the boards by Jesperi Kotkaniemi leads to Byron’s fourth goal of the season.
The line of Joel Armia, Byron and Kotkaniemi seemed to come to life. On their next shift, they were again buzzing in the offensive zone, a great pass from Kotkaniemi after a steal on the forecheck almost resulted in another goal.
In the second period, the Habs lead evaporated. The Sens forecheck caused problem to the Canadiens, giving them a taste of their own medicine.
The second Ottawa goal came when Price extended his stick to poke check the puck away on an attack from the face off circle by Mikkel Boedker. It was a bad read from Price, who was playing a good game before that.
A few minutes later, the Habs were in the box again and Matt Duchene, left uncovered on the penalty kill, scored into a wide open net after a great pass by Bobby Ryan. The game was now tied and the crowd is back in the game.
The intense pressure of the Danault line was still making things happen in an otherwise quiet start to the third period.
At the 10 minute mark, the Habs gave too much space to the Sens on a zone entry and Price had to make a good save on a cross ice pass, followed by his best imitation of Martin Brodeur, with Alzner sprawling in front of the net to prevent the puck from entering on the rebound. It was a close call for Montreal who come out of the sequence with a penalty, but kept the game tied.
The game would eventually need overtime.
After a defensive zone face off, another passing play led to a perfect shot from Mark Stone that beat Price to end the game.
- It’s amazing what being called underdog can do for a team. We have seen a great start from the Habs, but the Sens have also looked better this season with less firepower on paper.
- Saturday was another good game from Jesperi Kotkaniemi. His line has struggled at times with their chemistry, but the sparks were there against Ottawa. He is more than due for his first NHL goal. Plus, he showed his heart at the end by jumping to protect his goalie.
- The energy Montreal displayed to start the season was a bit lacking overall on Saturday against a spirited opponent who has proven they can’t be taken lightly.