The Montreal Canadiens opened the scoring early in the first, but the Ottawa Senators immediately responded, and the game settled into a lull with few completed passes, let alone dangerous scoring chances. Despite a few battles between Brady Tkachuk and Brendan Gallagher, the game was largely emotionless, which is a rare occurence in the recent history of this rivaly.
Clearly the better team, the Habs controlled the pace despite only firing on a few cylinders. Yet a goal from the Senators in the second period seemed to remove what little will the Canadiens had to pull off a third consecutive win over the club.
A goal from Jesperi Kotkaniemi two minutes into the third tied the game, and then Artturi Lehkonen appeared to give his side the lead with a great drive into the slot while being hooked, sending a shot on goal that was knocked in by Phillip Danault.
The goal was immediately waved off, leaving fans and players confused after a short-lived celebration. A conference at centre ice among the four officials ended with the decision: a hooking penalty to Thomas Chabot for slowing Lehkonen down, and an embellishment call for the Finn.
How in gods name is this embellishment on Artturi Lehkonen?— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) December 16, 2018
They just robbed the Finn of a highlight reel assist. pic.twitter.com/6SWBuJdmos
Lehkonen was upset with the call. Claude Julien was angry, and the crowd, for the first time, had reason to get involved, raining boos down on the officiating crew. The crowd’s displeasure was voiced during the stretch of four-on-four, and even continued on a power play that followed soon afterward.
A few fans even kept up the barrage after Shea Weber scored to put the Habs ahead a few seconds after the penalty expired.
From that point, the Canadiens had their best stretch of play in the game, getting a fourth goal three-and-a-half minutes later (with Lehkonen recording an assist for a bit of justice), and a fifth when the Senators pulled their goalie and Montreal immediately took advantage.
The end result was the standard 5-2 win over the Senators this season, though it wasn’t as comfortable a victory as the previous two contests would have suggested. The Canadiens could have easily been discouraged by having a goal called back, and who knows how the game would have turned out being tied 2-2 down the final stretch in that situation. The engagement from 19 players on the ice and 21,000-plus in the stands ensured that such speculation isn’t necessary today.