The Montreal Canadiens came into Denver looking to halt another Colorado Avalanche winning streak—this one consecutive wins at home, but it was not to be as they fell 2-0 on Wednesday night.
The Canadiens began the game well with a very lengthy opening shift in the Avalanche zone, and in fact, the Habs spent the first four minutes playing and passing with a great deal of confidence and crispness. Alex Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen especially seemed to be clicking. Despite that, Colorado got the first two shots of the night, as they collected themselves at the five minute mark.
Tomas Plekanec sprang Charles Hudon on a glorious breakaway a couple of minutes later, but Semyon Varlamov shut the door.
The chances remained pretty even, and the whistles limited through the half-way mark of the first. The Canadiens picked up steam again in the last couple minutes of the period, as Lehkonen, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Byron had a very excellent shift.
After 20, there really wasn't much by way of shots, or any kind of action at all, really, but the Habs did lead in shots 9-7.
Two minutes into the second, Brendan Gallagher was high-sticked, and the Habs went to the game's first power play. They had good possession and movement, but despite that, and a very strong couple of moments after the advantage, they weren't able to capitalize. The Avalanche responded with a will, hemming the Habs in their own end for a good couple of minutes at even strength, to the great delight of the home crowd. Antti Niemi was strong though, and despite being absolutely buried, the fourth line escaped unscathed.
In fact, Niemi held the Habs in the minutes afterwards as well as the Avs kept their foot down on the gas pedal. Pacioretty took a hooking call with 11:16 to go. Montreal killed it off without any damage, thanks to a couple of good saves, and an offensive zone jaunt by Byron and Lehkonen.
Montreal got another power play at 8:21, getting chances from Petry through traffic, Galchenyuk from the hash-marks, and Hudon in the slot, but Varlamov shut the five-hole on the former and latter, and tipped Galchenyuk's shot off his glove.
Unfortunately, Carl Soderberg beat Niemi clean through the five-hole on a wrap-around for the first goal of the game with 4:05 to go.
Hudon and Nail Yakupov got into a bit of a tussle on the next shift, and the Avalanche continued to pressure the Habs, but once again in the final moments of the frame, the Canadiens turned it on. However, the end of a much more active second saw them trailing 1-0, despite out-shooting the Avs 26-20 — although, to be fair, not many were particularly dangerous.
An absolutely spectacular shift from Galchenyuk, where his puck moving prowess was on full display, drew a power play. It was not a good one, but the Avalanche took a delay of game penalty, sending the Habs to the five-on-three for 40 seconds. Montreal was highly ineffective, though, and squandered a perfect opportunity to tie the game up.
The Habs also failed to capitalize on a furious scramble around the Avalanche net as Plekanec, Byron, and Logan Shaw temporarily kept them scrambling around the goalmouth.
They continued to buzz through the middle stages of the third, but the momentum came to nothing, as Nicolas Deslauriers took a penalty with 11:04 to go.
Galchenyuk, who looked dangerous quite frequently through the night, rang the goal-post in very tight with eight minutes left, and Hudon got his second scoring chance that had Varlamov checking behind him to make sure he still had the puck.
The Habs’ pressure continued, but as they had every time, Colorado was able to push back, and were far more effective. Alexander Kerfoot capitalized on by the Habs’ disorganization in their own end, and a shot right at Niemi went through for the 2-0 goal.
Claude Julien pulled Niemi with over two minutes to go, but though they didn't allow an empty-net goal, and largely held onto possession through that time, they remained unable to beat Varlamov.
- Niemi used to scare me just about every time the puck ends up near him, and yet he gets the saves made. It's pretty impressive, actually. He was quite good, and definitely gave the Habs every opportunity to win.
- Lehkonen, Byron, and Pacioretty were really good especially in the first period. They made plays, controlled the puck well, and Lehkonen especially was one of the most positively noticeable players on the ice all night for the Habs. Likewise, Galchenyuk did everything right but score, and it wasn't for lack of trying. He was tied for the team lead in shots with five, and had some of their most dangerous chances.
- Montreal was able to build momentum several times over the course of the game, but each time, they did nothing with it, and immediately allowed the Avs to set up camp in their own zone right afterwards. It cost them twice.