In the Captain's return, all eyes turned to the Montreal blue line, and Claude Julien made everyone wait.
Shea Weber's first shift came in the second minute, and the crowd came alive. He unleashed a huge shot shortly thereafter, just to remind everyone that he still can.
Montreal looked pretty good after their first couple of shifts, holding the zone for a bit, and forcing Curtis McElhinney to make a somewhat awkward save. The Hurricanes’ top line counter-punched however, and Carey Price made some saves of his own as Carolina lived up to their reputation, out-shooting the Habs early on.
It paid off in the end, and the words “pile-up in front of Price” boded about as well as you'd imagine. Victor Rask made it 1-0 at 7:45.
A hard-working shift from Michael Chaput and Kenny Agostino led to an offensive-zone push, which eventually led to some really good looks from Brett Kulak and the first and second lines. The flurry saw the Canadiens pass Carolina in shots, 9-8.
Both teams continued to get chances, Montreal with the edge in the second half of the period, picking up more shots and generally having more success staying in the offensive zone. Despite outshooting Carolina (a rare occurrence), the Canadiens were unable to beat McElhinney, and the period ended with a scramble around Price, and some pushing and shoving.
Carolina came out hot to start the second, but Montreal got the first look on the power play, and their first look at Weber on the advantage about 2:30 in. Jonathan Drouin played point, while Weber set up just above the Ovechkin spot at the circle, getting off a cannon in the initial setup. The middle of the advantage struggled to enter the zone, but the second unit got set up and moved the puck beautifully. Unfortunately, they did not capitalize.
David Schlemko made a great sprawling block to prevent Sebastian Aho's cross-crease pass to a teammate on a two-on-one around the five-minute mark, averting what looked like certain disaster.
Nicolas Deslauriers of all people had a glorious look courtesy of the captain, but grazed the far-side bar rather than hitting the open cage.
Approaching the halfway mark, Price body-checked Warren Foegele behind the net to raucous applause.
Unfortunately, Shaw took a penalty just a few moments later, but the Habs killed it off with ease. Though the penalty kill went very well, the next shift took the momentum out of their sails as the puck pinballed through the slot, and deflected in past Price off Victor Mete's skate. Trevor van Riemsdyk was credited with the 2-0 goal.
Montreal did push back a little following the goal, continuing to out-shoot Carolina over all, but to no avail. Drouin set up a chance that Shaw put just wide, and Price looked quite sharp on the next shift against Aho.
Drouin continued to be engaged. Aho rang the crossbar, and the puck bounced on Domi as the second period came to a wild finish. Montreal once again outshot Carolina in the second.
The teams got some looks to start the third, but McElhinney continued to look like a scrambly world-beater, in what rapidly grew a more and more frustrating game.
Van Riemsdyk got in on the thwarting action, robbing Drouin of what looked like a sure thing a few ticks past the five-minute mark.
Jeff Petry drew a call about seven minutes in, and the Habs worked on a lengthy delayed penalty before heading off to the advantage. Montreal's power play struggled mightily to get set up, only managing to do so in the final seconds of a toothless sequence.
The momentum did help, however, and at 9:29 Danault finally shot the puck behind McElhinney. Lehkonen and Weber got the assists on the 2-1 tally.
Montreal set up a couple of rebounds, but on every occasion a Canes player got there first. There wasn't a whole lot to complain about overall, as even the third and fourth lines won puck battles and got really good chances as the game approached the fifteen minute mark.
The hard work paid off at 13:54 when Drouin drew a penalty. Weber took his more typical spot at the point on the power play, but the Habs kept their options open even with him there. Once again, however, the Canadiens failed to capitalize at a crucial juncture.
Montreal pulled Carey Price with about 2:20 to go, and absolutely turned on the pressure. Tomas Tatar rang the post, but the force field around the Hurricanes’ net remained solid despite the shooting gallery. All the way through the final minutes of the game Montreal kept things interesting, but at the end of the day, it was just one of those games.
It took them a little while to get going thoroughly, but that and the power play were really the only things you could fault them for. They got shots, they got dangerous shots, Price let in a goal that went off his defenseman, but otherwise had a pretty good game. If it hadn't been for McElhinney, the outcome might have been quite a bit different from the 2-1 loss.
- This was my first time seeing Kulak in the lineup, and I quite liked him. He seems solid both offensively and defensively.
- Montreal played a really good game overall, but got goalied by a lucky McElhinney. It was incredibly frustrating to watch.
- The Habs reversed the usual script against the Hurricanes, who have become accustomed to wildly outshooting their opponents, this time getting outshot 49-22.