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Canadiens vs. Wild game recap: First-period frenzy earns Habs the win

After an uninspired start, two players netting their first NHL goals made the difference.

Minnesota Wild v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens needed a good game after a tough result on Tuesday night. The Minnesota Wild hadn’t been scaring any teams with their poor start to the season and a near non-existent offence, so the points were there for the taking for the home side.

For the first half of the opening period, it didn’t seem like the Canadiens were all that interested in showing that they were better than the opposition. The opening minutes looked eerily similar to the performance in Detroit a week prior, not boding well for the Canadiens’ chances.

Fortunately, the young Habs took over to make sure the result went in Montreal’s favour.

To start things off, and really get the fans in the Bell Centre energized, Victor Mete took the puck in open space and fired a wrist shot for his first NHL goal.

Assisting on the play was Nick Cousins, who took advantage of some lazy defensive-zone coverage to hit a net-charging Mete. In his first game with his new team, he made a great early bid to get a bit more playing time with the club.

On a power play a few minutes later, a good setup from the rejuvenated Jonathan Drouin helped extend the lead to two. He got the puck near the side of the net, forcing Wild goaltender Alex Stalock to focus on a potential shot. Instead Drouin fired a pass across the crease (with a little help from a well-timed stick-lift from Max Domi), and Joel Armia had plenty of time to pick his spot for his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

Before the period ended, the crowd had another first NHL goal to celebrate. Domi carried the puck down below the goal line then played the puck back up near the blue line to Jeff Petry. The defenceman launched an attempt toward the net, but had it partially blocked. That still worked out for Montreal as the puck made its way to an ignored Nick Suzuki. He tried to settle the puck down that was a bit too far to his backhand side, but realizing he was running out of time for a shot, simply shoveled the puck from a sharp angle into the open net.

Mostly accustomed to multi-goal deficits so far this season, it was the first time the Habs had enjoyed a comfortable lead at the start of a game.

It may have been a bit too comfortable for the team coming out of the first intermission, as the second period played out like the opening half of the previous one. It didn’t matter much, however, because the Wild had been completely deflated by the outburst in the first period and offered up little pushback. Down by three, the visitors managed a mere six shots in the frame despite two power-play opportunities.

The third was even poorer for Minnesota, as they forced Carey Price to stop just five pucks. The goaltender made one save about every four minutes to end with a 17-save shutout; his first of the 2019-20 campaign.

One of Montreal’s 11 shots in the period was the result of a bad giveaway by Matt Dumba in his own zone. Brendan Gallagher stuck out his stick to block a passing lane on the forecheck, but Dumba attempted the pass anyway. Gallgher collected the puck and raced up to the net, sending one final shot past Stalock for the final goal in a 4-0 victory.

It wasn’t the last bit of action in the contest. With just over a minute left, Luke Kunin reacted to a missed high-sticking call by dropping the gloves with Nate Thompson. Just a few seconds after play resumed, Paul Byron and Nick Seeler were sent to their respective dressing rooms early after being assessed coincidental slashing minors. The rough ending had little effect on last night’s score, but it may set a tone for the next meeting, which goes on Sunday afternoon.

Before that rematch happens, the Canadiens will take on another recent opponent first. Hitting the road after last night’s final game of the homestand, their first road game will be against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.

Thoughts

  • After calling out some of his players after the previous game, Claude Julien will probably be happy enough with his team’s performance last night to stick with the same group on Saturday afternoon. There was lots to like from Nick Cousins, and little to dislike from Cale Fleury, which is often just as important for a rookie.
  • Victor Mete finally has his first NHL goal, and he was looking to add another to his tally for the rest of the night. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 127 games for him to get his second.