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Canadiens @ Islanders game recap: Habs complete comeback to start road trip

A shootout win gets the team two points.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New York Islanders Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Armia scored in his first career NHL shootout attempt to seal a 4-3 Montreal Canadiens victory over the New York Islanders on Monday night at the Barclays Center.

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Armia fired a wrist shot past Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss in the fifth round of the shootout to end the game after either team failed to score in the previous attempts. It capped a Canadiens comeback after falling behind 3-1 in the first period.

The Islanders opened the scoring in bizarre fashion when Casey Cizikas pounced on a loose puck and put it past Antti Niemi, who got the start for the Canadiens on Monday. New York capitalized on a Montreal penalty in the opening minute to take a bit of momentum early on.

Montreal would quickly strike back. Less than two minutes later, Max Domi would take a pass from Noah Juulsen and enter the Islanders zone before finding Jonathan Drouin in stride. Drouin would walk in and fire the wrist shot past Greiss to tie the game.

The Islanders would re-take the lead, once again capitalizing on a Montreal mistake. Jordie Benn would get caught at the blue line and Brendan Gallagher would turn the puck over, leading to a two-on-one between Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula. They would play the situation perfectly and Filppula beat Niemi to make it 2-1.

It was the game’s third goal in only 3:40.

Before the end of the period, the Islanders would once again capitalize on a fortuitous bounce. Cizikas would try to pass the puck across the ice, it would be blocked by Benn and go right back on Cizikas’s stick. He would then catch Niemi moving laterally to score his second goal of the period and double his team’s lead.

Montreal would bounce back in the second period and really start to turn it on. They didn’t play badly in the first period, and the shots were even at eight a piece. But the Islanders simply capitalized on the few chances that the Canadiens would give them.

But the final 40 minutes were Montreal’s best. They would get scoring chances throughout the second period, with the help of a couple of power plays. It would be the second of three power play opportunities that would be the one to lead to a goal.

Drouin would find Domi at the right half-wall, and he would fire a perfect shot with Gallagher screening Greiss to cut the lead to one entering the third period.

Montreal would continue to put pressure on the Islanders before the period ended. The first power play unit would spent over 90 seconds in the offensive zone, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

The third period would be more of the same. The Canadiens would get several great opportunities as all four lines would be generating offence. The best chances of the period would come from Mikey Reilly finding Artturi Lehkonen in the slot, and Victor Mete finding Jonathan Drouin at the side of the net.

Both chances would not even lead to an official shot on goal as Lehkonen couldn’t handle the pass, and Drouin’s chance would ring off the post. Greiss made 31 saves for the Islanders.

Finally, Lehkonen would break his goal scoring slump that has lasted since the season’s first game of the season. He would tip home the Juulsen shot to make it 3-3.

After the tying goal, both teams would go back and forth in a very entertaining final few minutes. However, overtime would be needed.

Armia, the game’s eventual hero would appear to be the goat in the final minute of the third period. With the puck near the Canadiens bench at the offensive blue line, the Finn would choose to stay on after Gallagher had already jumped on the ice. Gallagher would try to get back to the bench, but it was too late.

The Islanders would start overtime on the power play, but could not generate a goal. It would lead to a lengthy 4-on-4 overtime period until a whistle got it back to the normal 3-on-3.

A shootout would be needed and Niemi and Griess both stopped the first four shooters. After Niemi stopped Filppula, Armia would make no mistake to seal the victory for the Canadiens, who once again avoided back-to-back losses. They have yet to lose two games in a row.


Thoughts

  • Antti Niemi was the surprising starter on Monday as many expected Carey Price to start against the Islanders with Niemi taking the second game against the Rangers. Claude Julien reversed the order, and Niemi repaid his faith.
  • The goals were on the bizarre side, but he would step up and make some big saves as well, including this one on Mathew Barzal in the second period. Niemi ended with 21 saves.
  • He would make all five saves in the shootout, and has stopped all seven shootout attempts he has faced this season.
  • Montreal’s depth has started to shine through again. The line of Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar and Gallagher was once again very solid as it has been most of the season. But the line of Domi, Drouin, and Charles Hudon was outstanding on Monday night. Add in the line of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Lehkonen and Armia, and the Canadiens have three really dangerous lines. They won’t always all score in a game, but when they do (like on Monday), they will be hard to beat.
  • Speaking of Kotkaniemi, he looks more and more comfortable every game and earned two overtime shifts from Claude Julien. If that’s not an indicator of how he’s progressing, I’m not sure what is.
  • Drouin and Domi isn’t a combination I would have expected to work just because their skill sets seemed too similar to compliment each other, but I was wrong. They look so good together and Monday night may have been their best game.