The Montreal Canadiens returned home facing a six-game losing streak, but came out and dominated the opening 40 minutes en route to a 3-1 victory against a decimated New York Rangers team at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
Charles Hudon had an assist and was clearly the best player on the ice. He was creating chances throughout the entire game.
Montreal scored first when Karl Alzner started the rush with a great outlet pass to Brendan Gallagher who drove the zone, left the puck to Paul Byron who found Tomas Plekanec on the doorstep just under seven minutes into the game.
The Canadiens would keep coming. They would get several chances throughout the period, including when Hudon skated around the Rangers zone and made a perfect pass to Noah Juulsen, but Alexandar Georgiev made the save in his first NHL start.
The second period was more of the same, as the Habs drove the play on a Rangers team that scratched Michael Grabner, Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, and had Henrik Lundqvist on the bench.
Less than four minutes into the period, after previously getting a chance with Phillip Danault, Hudon drove down the left wing and found Jeff Petry in front for a tap-in goal.
The game would have been more out of hand if it weren’t for Georgiev, who made several big saves, including many on Brendan Gallagher, including a breakaway.
After two periods, the Canadiens had 15 five-on-five high danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick and held the Rangers to none. They also had over 74 percent of shot attempts over the first two periods at even strength.
But the Rangers would switch it on the third period. Antti Niemi would come up big in the period, making big saves, including a nice pad stop on Mika Zibanejad.
Niemi made 31 saves in the win, Georgiev made 38 saves for the Rangers. Montreal outshot the Rangers 41-32.
New York would finally get on the board with three minutes remaining when Kevin Hayes scored on the power play. The play was initially ruled as no goal as he kicked the puck, but under review the puck actually hit his stick on its way into the net, making it a good goal.
With the goaltender pulled, the Rangers couldn’t really get any dangerous chances and Phillip Danault would score into the empty net to make it 3-1.
- It was great to see Noah Juulsen get trusted immediately by Claude Julien. He played on the penalty kill, and was called upon when the Rangers pulled their goaltender. He had 17:14 of ice time. Victor Mete had 18:02. Mete was third among defenders (behind Petry and Joe Morrow) while Juulsen was ahead of Karl Alzner, but behind Jordie Benn.
- Thursday was a much better game from Phillip Danault. He struggled against Philadelphia which is to be expected after a long layoff but he was really good against the Rangers.
- Mete was also used on the penalty kill, and that’s what the Canadiens should be doing going forward. Mete and Juulsen are the two youngest and least experienced defencemen but they looked great yesterday. At this point, just play them. That’s how they’ll learn and the Canadiens will be a better team next year because of it.