The Montreal Canadiens were meeting a St. Louis Blues team sitting near the bottom of the standings. Getting an early goal may have been just enough to take control of the game and earn two points, allowing the bleu-blanc-rouge to start catching up to third place in the Atlantic Division.
Carey Price was tested early when the Blues got possession of the puck below the goal line and fed it in front. David Perron couldn’t capitalize and fell over the Habs goalie.
Shea Weber was penalized on the same play, and it took 30 seconds for the Blues to open the scoring when Robert Thomas found a loose puck in front of the cage and banged it in.
A giveaway by Jeff Petry almost sprang them for a second goal a minute later. It was not the start the Habs envisioned, but at least their fourth line was buzzing in the Blues end on every shift.
Late in the period, the Habs were once again penalized, but they managed to get the best scoring chance while short-handed when Philip Danault, getting out of the box, found himself alone with the goalie. He tried to slide the puck five-hole, but was shut down by Jordan Binnington.
Montreal ended the period on a bad note; once again due to their dysfunctional power play. Not only did they not get scoring chances, but Oskar Sundqvist scored on a 2-on-1 in the first few seconds after a lost faceoff.
The Habs wee putting on more offensive pressure at the start of the second period, but it didn’t turn into offensive chances, and there were still a lot of mental lapses in the defensive end of the ice. On the third odd-man rush Montreal gave the Blues, they capitalized to make the game 3-0.
But luck was on the Habs’ side a few minutes later. They received yet another power-play opportunity, and this time generated more shots. Gallagher tried a cross-ice pass to Tomas Tatar on the second wave, and the puck deflected off of a stick to slide five-hole on the goalie. His 17th goal of the season made it 3-1, and offered a sliver of hope.
A few good looks from the Danault and Kotkaniemi lines were the bright moments in a latter half of the period that was again marred by turnovers.
After getting a breakaway chance in the first period, and missing, Nicolas Deslauriers got the puck on his stick from the corner with an open net to shoot at at the start of the third period. He thought he had scored for a second, but unfortunately was denied of the goal.
The Blues’ own fourth line struck a few minutes later. Samuel Blais received a pass as he skated through the neutral zone, and flew by Karl Alzner and Jeff Petry. He beat Price with a good fake, pulling the puck from his backhand up to his forehand, and it was a 4-1.
The Habs were then trying to do too much. Brett Kulak outskated one forechecker, but turned the puck over trying to do the same against two more in the neutral-zone. It became a 3-on-1, but Price had gotten accustomed to facing several Blues at a time, and stopped the shot. Kulak’s play was a change of strategy after a lot of the Habs’ passes had ended up on opponents’ sticks, but the solo-effort was not much more effective.
Domi was tripped with seven minutes left in the third, and an infraction on Drouin was called after he gained the zone with speed on the power play, resulting in a 5-on-3.
Shea Weber rang a powerful shot off the post, but no other scoring chances were created. Kotkaniemi took a late holding penalty, and it ended any chance of a late comeback.
The score held, with the Blues taking the game 4-1.
- The Habs were a no show last night. Out of the two teams on the ice, they looked like the team at the bottom of the NHL standing, not the one fighting for a playoff spot.
- The only bright spot might be the play of the fourth line. Nicolas Deslauriers was very engaged in the game, and had more than his fair share of chances. He brought energy, and used his size to screen the goalie when his line cycled the puck up to the defencemen for shots.
- Jonathan Drouin had some good flashes, but overall it was an up and down game for him. It might be time for Claude Julien to break up the duo he forms with Domi in favour of some fresh combinations.