For the third time in two weeks, the Montreal Canadiens clashed with the Ottawa Senators, this time in the season finale of their series. Ottawa won the first game in overtime, while Montreal, in back-to-back meetings earlier this month, shellacked them by identical 5-2 scorelines.
Carey Price again reprised his role as Mr. Saturday Night as Montreal looked to win the season series and keep their momentum going from an emotional win against Carolina on Thursday. Standing in their way were Mike McKenna (Craig Anderson had played the night before) and Mark Stone who has played some of his best hockey at the expense of Montreal this year.
It didn’t take long for the action to start at the Bell Centre, with the Canadiens’ fourth line striking just 3:39 into the first period. Some sustained pressure allowed Kenny Agostino to fire a puck on McKenna, who in turn kicked out a rebound. Matthew Peca was right on the spot and fired the loose puck into the net to put Montreal up early.
It was a short-lived lead however. Just 20 seconds later, Ottawa managed to score a goal that came with a bit of controversy. Brady Tkachuk drove hard to the net and put the puck in on Carey Price. Based on the replays, it then looked like Tkachuk jammed his stick into Price’s ankle, which led to the Canadiens netminder falling awkwardly and clutching his left knee. While Price was down, Colin White scored on what was essentially an empty net to tie the game, a goal that stood even after a review for goaltender interference.
As a crazy first period continued, Brendan Gallagher looked like he gave the Canadiens the lead right back on the following shift. He directed a Brett Kulak shot into the net, the only issue being that he deliberately kicked at the puck, and the goal was immediately waved off.
The game settled into a much less frantic pace, but Montreal continued to edge ahead on the shot counter as the period wound down. White closed his hand on the puck late in the period, sending Montreal to a power play, but continued futility with the man advantage saw the teams head to intermission still tied.
Through nearly 10 minutes, Montreal continued to pile up shots, leading 20-8 by the mid-point of the frame. Then Ottawa got their first shot of the period, and it went in the net courtesy of Mikkel Boedker. A poor effort by Jordie Benn behind the net ended up putting the puck on Mark Stone’s stick, and he passed off to Boedker who broke the deadlock.
Following Boedker’s goal, the teams traded penalties straight through to the end of the period, but neither side managed to do much of anything with their advantage, and by the end the officials were content to send players off for engaging in post-whistle shenanigans. Despite a 17-shot advantage, Montreal went into the second intermission trailing by a goal still.
After a second period in which Bob Cole proclaimed “nothing is happening,” the final period kicked the insanity back into gear in the first three minutes. Jeff Petry circled his zone waiting for his teammates to change, and once they did he fired a perfect breakout pass to Artturi Lehkonen. The Finnish winger picked out Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who fired a shot through Bobby Ryan’s legs, off the post, and then off the back of Mike McKenna, which trickled into the net to tie the game.
Then Jordie Benn promptly hooked a Senators player and sent Montreal to a massive penalty kill. Lehkonen was again the catalyst as he took off out of the defensive end with the puck, blowing by Thomas Chabot who had no choice but to hook him to the ice. As Lehkonen began stumbling due to the stick wrapped around him, he got a perfect pass to Phillip Danault who tapped home a short-handed goal. Only it didn’t count.
The officials ruled that Chabot had indeed hooked Lehkonen, but, incredibly, called the Finn for embellishment, cancelling out the goal and sending Claude Julien into apoplectic rage on the bench.
So Montreal ramped up what they had been doing all game, continuing to put the boots to the Senators as they looked to overcome the officiating for a third goal. Drake Batherson lent them a hand, taking a cross-checking penalty behind his own net. The Canadiens’ power play again didn’t convert, but just after it expired captain Shea Weber broke the tie. A hard rebound came off of McKenna’s pads, and Weber, who had slid in from the point, stepped in and rifled his fourth goal of the year to give his team the lead (for real this time).
Then the deluge happened as it had in the previous meetings this month. With Montreal fully in control on the shot clock, they piled in two more goals for good measure. Lehkonen found Kotkaniemi (again) and this time the young Finn slid a perfect pass around a sprawling McKenna and all Paul Byron had to do was nudge it ever so slightly over the goal line to put the game out of reach.
A late empty-net goal by Jonathan Drouin sealed a third straight 5-2 win for the Canadiens over the Senators, and clinched the season series from their rivals in Ontario.
Now, the team prepares for a rivalry that extends much farther back, hosting the Boston Bruins on Monday before heading into the United States for a pre-Christmas road trip.