On a 1-4-2 stretch going into Tuesday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens were looking to find results that matched their efforts. Against Carolina, New York, and San Jose, the team had played well for long periods, but some bad luck or momentary lapses hurt them. While they smashed the Rangers on Saturday, they slipped up against the Sharks the following night.
Conversely, the Senators had won their last three games, including a 6-2 drubbing of the Sharks on the night Erik Karlsson returned to Ottawa, making this a matchup of two teams on different runs of form.
As is always the case between these two teams, records and form don’t truly matter once the puck drops. Both sides traded prime scoring chances, with the Senators getting the best chance early on. With Carey Price down and sprawling, Bobby Ryan couldn’t collect the puck to fire a shot on net.
Ottawa received the first power play of the game to try to make up for the flubbed chance. Max Domi jumped on Drake Batherson after a big reverse hit on Andrew Shaw. While the cause was a noble one, Domi would sit an extra two minutes for roughing.
The Canadiens’ penalty kill dispatched the Ottawa man advantage with relative ease, and actually drew their own penalty when Mark Stone kneed Jonathan Drouin with just over half the period gone. Even though they didn’t convert, the combination of Shea Weber and Drouin peppered Anderson and the Sens with plenty of high-quality chances.
With the momentum rolling from their power play, Montreal broke through, thanks to a nifty breakout pass by Matthew Peca.
With the puck flicked on to Max Domi, and Cody Ceci scrambling to get into position, the Canadiens took the lead. Domi sped in, then held up, freezing Ceci long enough for Jonathan Drouin to take a perfect pass and slide a backhand five-hole on Craig Anderson for a lead.
With time winding down in the period, a pair of off-setting penalties to Brady Tkachuk and Michael Chaput sent the game to 4-on-4 hockey, but a penalty by Brendan Gallagher in the final second of the period gave Ottawa a chance to even the score early in the second.
The Canadiens killed off that man advantage, and even drew another penalty of their own, but also could not capitalize. Even as Price looked to be locked in as the Senators pushed for a goal of their own, the strangeness of this rivalry popped up again. A knuckeball shot by Dylan DeMelo looped in on net, and Price, who was screened by Bobby Ryan and Jordie Benn, waved at it as best he could, but the game was tied as the puck settled into the net.
Then Domi took over the game, with some big help from Drouin once again. A misplayed pass, and a Senators forward slipping along the boards, gave Drouin all the time he needed to feed a pass to Domi, who in turn fired one past Anderson to restore Montreal’s lead.
Three minutes later he did it again, doubling Montreal’s lead late in the second period. A little bump pass by Paul Byron started the play as Domi fired a breakout pass to Drouin, who in turn flew down the wing into the Senators’ zone. As Drouin entered, he checked over his shoulder and left a perfect drop pass for Domi, who wired home another goal for the Canadiens.
Not to be outdone, the Canadiens added another dagger into the heart of their rivals, with a Finnish connection doing the damage this time. A powerful net drive by Jesperi Kotkaniemi opened up a passing lane for Artturi Lehkonen, who tapped home the rookie’s centring pass for a three-goal lead heading into the third period.
It didn’t take long for Montreal to quash any hopes of a Senators comeback in the final period, thanks to a Brendan Gallagher goal. A lazy pass was intercepted by Tomas Tatar in the Senators’ zone, and as Tatar circled below the goal line he picked out Gallagher in the slot. The Habs’ energetic forward made no mistake, wristing a shot off the post and in for his 12th of the year to put the game out of reach.
A late Mark Stone goal and a Brett Kulak fight with Ryan Dzingel were the only moments of note as the clock wound down, and Montreal saw out the lopsided 5-2 victory.
These games throw all logic out the window. Despite Ottawa’s recent wins and Montreal’s struggles it was a whole new game out there. Last night, Montreal put the opening goal up on the board, and then just put their foot down, handing the Senators a beating the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Charles Sumner.
The players that the Canadiens needed strong games from showed up in spades, Carey Price was in vintage form, while the Domi/Drouin partnership was unstoppable in the offensive zone.
These two teams meet again on Thursday night in the nation’s capitals, and even though Montreal ran roughshod over them last night, they need this same level of effort because this rivalry can flip a game on its head in the blink of an eye. Or maybe about four minutes.