The slump is coming at a bad time for the team, which now sits four points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and saw the Carolina Hurricanes and surging Florida Panthers leapfrog them with wins last night. Not helping matters is the fact that Florida still has three games in hands.
The Islanders can’t afford to be losing games to a bottom-five team in the league with crucial divisional matchups coming up at the end of the season that could determine the final spots in the post-season.
Montreal was able hold the Islanders at bay thanks to some timely goaltending from Antti Niemi. After going down 1-0 early, a near-disastrous shift for the power play threatened to break the game open the Islanders.
The visitors’ aggressive approach on the penalty kill resulted in three breaks up ice in a matter of seconds, with Niemi needing to be on his game to keep the Habs within striking distance.
The performance came just after Charlie Lindgren’s 65-minute shutout effort in a shootout loss on Monday. With a back-to-back road set on the docket, ending with a game in Boston on Saturday, there is a decision to be made on how to deploy the two netminders this weekend.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Islanders region: MSG
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
Nikita Scherbak scored his second goal of the season on Wednesday to give the Canadiens a two-goal advantage and a bit of breathing room in the second period. He now has goals in consecutive games, even though those games happened to be 11 days apart and spanned a reassignment to the AHL. He could have had two in the game if not for an open-net shot that found the post. It was a good game for one of the players being closely evaluated over the final quarter of the season.
Wednesday also saw the debut of the newest Canadien, Mike Reilly, after he had been brought into the organization at Monday’s deadline. Claude Julien got a great look at his newest addition, as Reilly played a game-high 22:56 on a night when the top pairing of Jeff Petry and Victor Mete was used sparingly. On what was a difficult night in terms of possession, Reilly was the only Canadiens player to finish with a positive unblocked-shot-attempt differential.
After being posterized by Mathew Barzal on the first goal of the game, Noah Juulsen returned to the form he’d been showing through his first three NHL games. He had three shots on goal of his own, and came close to setting up a goal on the first shift of the game when he stickhandled his way into the slot to create a rebound opportunity.
The Habs were able to limit the offence of Barzal and frustrate John Tavares, who had several great chances right around the goalmouth but came away empty-handed. The Isles will be much more desperate in tonight’s matchup, and will provide another test for a young defence corps being evaluated for positions next season.