Carey Price’s strong performance in net just hours after announcing that he will not be attending the NHL All-Star Game due to a lingering injury was not enough to lead the Canadiens to victory over the visiting Minnesota Wild, who defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 at the Bell Centre Monday night in the Canadiens’ first of two games in two days.
The first period was not without its difficulties for the Canadiens, who lost Kenny Agostino less than three minutes into the game as he was ejected for a hit on Eric Fehr. Agostino’s hit injured the Minnesota forward, and teammate Nick Seeler was quick to drop the gloves in defence of his teammate. Seeler was given a five-minute penalty for fighting on top of a penalty for being the instigator, and a misconduct, but Agostino was given a game misconduct along with his interference and fighting majors, which put an end to his night.
Kenny Agostino hits Eric Fehr late, and he's given five and a game for interference pic.twitter.com/D9sggZWPcx— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 8, 2019
The Canadiens’ struggles got worse as the period went on, as Shea Weber curled over in a significant amount of pain after blocking a shot. Mikael Granlund’s wrist shot quite literally left its mark on the face of the Canadiens’ captain as it deflected off Weber’s stick from close proximity and landed right on his left cheek. Though he would return to action in the first period, he did not return to the bench in the second period and the Canadiens eventually announced that he was done for the night with an injury.
Shea Weber takes a puck to the face, is mildly inconvenienced by it. pic.twitter.com/ZbsUrYvm1x— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 8, 2019
The Canadiens only won 26% of their faceoffs in the opening frame and went 0-for-3 on the power play, though they outshot the Wild 11-9 in the period.
The good news for the Canadiens was that despite Agostino’s absence and Weber’s injury, Price immediately gave his team confidence and showed that he came ready to play with an incredible sequence of four back-to-back saves. The saves, which took place on Minnesota’s power play that resulted from Agostino’s expulsion, helped keep the games goalless after 20 minutes of play.
Price took a rare penalty at the start of the second period as the puck bounced over his stick and, without thinking, he played it just beyond the goal line. The Canadiens’ netminder, who finished the game with 24 saves and was named the game’s second star, killed off the subsequent penalty and turned away Minnesota’s five shots in the period. Devan Dubnyk blocked all 22 of Montreal’s shots in the first 40 minutes of play, leaving the game to be decided in the third.
A terrible giveaway from Jeff Petry resulted in the game’s lone goal at 6:58 of the third period, as he gave the puck to Granlund on a backhanded no-look pass from the side of the net. Granlund skated around Jordan Greenway and Petry who were in front of the net to score his 12th of the season. The Canadiens could have challenged for goaltender interference as Greenway’s stick arguably prevented Price from making the save, but they opted to hang on to their challenge and timeout.
Price headed to the bench for the extra attacker with approximately two minutes left in the game, and the Canadiens ended up using their timeout with less than 30 seconds remaining in hopes of drawing up the game-tying goal. They sent Brendan Gallagher, Phillip Danault, Max Domi, Tomas Tatar and Petry on the ice to tie the game, but Dubnyk held on for the 32-save shutout and first-star honours.
- Montreal is extremely unlucky with facial fractures between Nicolas Deslauriers and Noah Juulsen, and they are extremely lucky that Weber does not have one and can travel with the team to Detroit. Another long-term injury to Weber could be disastrous, especially heading into the second and most important half of the season.
- The Canadiens will have to have a little more puck luck than they did against Minnesota if they hope to hang in the race for a wild-card spots and make the playoffs. The push between the Islanders, Sabres, Canadiens, Hurricanes, Panthers and Rangers is very, very tight.
- Montreal needs to get the power play working again if they hope to make the playoffs. They were 0-for-3 against the Wild, and the goal would have made all the difference in a low-scoring game.