With a familiar foe in town and Carey Price chasing career win number 300, the Montreal Canadiens dressed what was perhaps their best defensive lineup of the year. Unfortunately, it did not end up looking like the best defensive lineup of the year.
The game did not get off to a good start. After the top three lines spent their first shifts in the defensive zone, Michael Chaput had an egregious turnover, and Joakim Nordstrom made it 1-0 very early.
The Canadiens had major problems completing passes cleanly and limiting turnovers, but drew a power play when Brad Marchand high-sticked Phillip Danault. The abysmal power play came up empty, extending a goalless stretch to 23 oportunities over the last seven games, and putting up only one shot.
The Bruins continued to pressure, but Price was up to the challenge. Once the game edged past the halfway mark, the Habs seemed to settle down a little, turning over fewer pucks and doing a better job getting out of their own zone.
Boston put the puck over the glass, sending the power play to work once more, yet with familiar results. Danault took a tripping penalty of his own with under five to go, but Montreal killed it off, and despite some more turnovers, the Habs escaped to the first intermission outshot 13-5, but trailing just 1-0.
A too-many-men penalty 2:29 into the second put the Habs’ penalty kill to work, and a strong performance led to some momentum a couple of better shifts after the penalty ended.
Noah Juulsen wound up and got the Canadiens’ first shot of the period at around the eight-minute mark. Jesperi Kotkaniemi rang iron shortly afterward, and his line continued to cause mayhem in the offensive zone about halfway through the period. Kenny Agostino added his name to the insanity, driving in hard, but Jaroslav Halak stood firm.
Montreal got another crack at the power play as David Pastrnak put the puck over the glass, but the result was a predictable one. Shortly thereafter, Price had to come up big when the Habs gave up a 2-on-1, and again on a shot from Torey Krug.
Montreal had another swarming shift from Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron, but then Kotkaniemi and Sean Kuraly took penalties with almost exactly two minutes to go. Naturally, Colby Cave scored his first career NHL goal with less than 30 seconds remaining on the clock during the 4-on-4 finish.
The third period got off to a terrible start for Montreal, getting absolutely destroyed on the way to a David Krejci goal to make it 3-0. Things continued to go badly for the Habs, as Pastrnak was launched into Price by David Schlemko after a defensive lapse and Brad Marchand made it 4-0.
The Habs regrouped again after that, but still couldn't beat Halak. At the end of the game, Montreal had been outshot 35-22, and they'd managed to accrue a staggering 24 turnovers. It wasn't pretty.
Montreal now heads out on back-to-back three-game road trips, divided by the holiday break, where they will hopefully tighten up the turnover issue, and finally get that dreadful power play going.