The Montreal Canadiens left Arizona with a 4-1 victory and traveled upstate to Nevada to take on Max Pacioretty and the rest of the Vegas Golden Knights. This game marked the first occasion where all three players from last year’s blockbuster trade faced off against each other.
So far, that trade is looking very favourable for Montreal. Tomas Tatar outscored Pacioretty by eighteen points last season and has, together with rookie Nick Suzuki, combined for six goals and fourteen points so far this year; three more than the former Habs captain who stood at 11, two of them being goals. The second-rounder in that deal, which was the icing on the cake, ultimately gave the Canadiens Swedish defence prospect Mattias Norlinder, who has had an impressive start to his season. So far, so good.
After a reported groin injury on Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the aforementioned Suzuki got his first chance of his young NHL career to play in the middle, centring the third line with Artturi Lehkonen and Paul Byron. Jordan Weal took Kotkaniemi’s place in the lineup, and in goal Keith Kinkaid made his third start of the season.
This late-night game (or early morning if you happen to live in Europe) began with a formidable scoring chance for Nick Cousins, getting a two-on-one after a win near the boards by Weal, but Marc-André Fleury got to prove his worth for the home team early.
Less than a minute later, the Canadiens did end his hopes of a Halloween shutout. Tatar entered the offensive zone and served Shea Weber on the blue line. Weber, seeking a goal against the only NHL opponent he has yet to score against, was denied by Fleury, but Phillip Danault found the rebound and netted his fifth goal of the season.
If there is someone who thrives in T-Mobile Arena, it’s Danault. Last year, this was where he managed to get his first NHL hat trick, after having immense trouble with his scoring early that year.
After a hot start by Montreal, Vegas got more of the momentum toward the end of the period. Jonathan Marchessault cleared the puck from his own zone in what turned out to become a perfect pass to his linemate William Karlsson. The Swede got some help from an unlucky Victor Mete, who managed to slow the hard pass down just enough for it to land perfectly on Karlsson’s stick. Alone with Kinkaid, Wild Bill hung it high like a proper marksman to make it 1-1.
The Golden Knights’ pressure continued to increase as time went on and Montreal continued their bad habit of getting scored on late in periods. Nate Schmidt cleared a puck off the boards to Alex Tuch, entering the offensive zone unpressured to the right of Kinkaid. The Montreal netminder took a flier and visibly showed where he thought Tuch would place the puck, opening up the space between his feet and making it an easy finish. Tuch got his first of the season, and Montreal entered the break one goal down.
The Habs have a tendency to start periods fueled up and energetic. The second period was no exception. During the first few minutes, Jonathan Drouin hit the post and Danault forced Fleury into a quality save when he gave it a go from the crease.
Marchessault would have extended Vegas’s lead minutes later, getting an open goal opportunity on a rebound from Shea Theodore, but Max Domi backchecked admirably and lifted the stick of the shooter just enough to help Kinkaid out. That chance ultimately gave the Habs their first chance on the man advantage for the night, as Marchessault couldn’t get to the bench in time and the home team got caught having too many men on the ice. Unfortunately, the power play did not result in anything substantial.
The Canadiens would eventually tie up this back-and-forth saga. Drouin continues his hot streak and for the second night in a row he got a goal credited to him via the stick of an opposing defender. After being left all alone in front of Fleury, he beat the goaltender with beautiful puck skills only to see the puck on the wrong side of the goal line. Thankfully, Brayden McNabb helped Drouin out, and halfway through proceedings the game was tied at two.
As has happened many times this season, a Montreal goal was followed by an intense period for the opposing team. Kinkaid made a real higlight save on a rebound from the always excellent Mark Stone, stretching out and making a glove stop that would have made Carey Price proud. Minutes later, Karlsson nearly had his second of the night, but the post helped Montreal out on that occasion.
During the very last second of the period Karlsson had yet another opportunity with a breakaway whilst being one man down, but thankfully Kinkaid remained a blockade to finish out the period.
The Canadiens’ goalie started off the third period as he had ended the second; calm, composed and in the right position to make easy saves. Unfortunately, all of that will be forgotten because of Vegas’s go-ahead goal. Yes, Tuch did an efficient job screening in front of the net, but the loose finish from Cody Glass should be saved by an NHL goalkeeper 10 times out of 10 and never slip in between the pads.
Tatar became the first Habs player of the night to go to the box, getting a hooking call soon after the goal and giving Vegas a fine chance to go up by two. The power play may not have converted, but the two-goal advantage came soon enough when Stone, after a delayed high sticking call was wiped out by Kinkaid playing the puck, sent a pass toward Paul Stastny but instead happened to find the net via Ben Chiarot’s skate.
Thus an uphill battle awaited the Canadiens during the last 12 minutes of the contest. An opportunity arose when Schmidt took a holding call with 8.29 left. Two seconds after Schmidt stepped back on the ice again, Montreal got back to a one-goal deficit. Tatar scored a proper Gallagher-esque goal, getting hit in the belly by the puck and then scoring on a rebound.
This was not a game of pretty goals, but pretty goals don’t win games. Montreal pulled the goalie with a little over two minutes left while still having the puck in their own zone. Eleven seconds later, that gamble paid off. Joel Armia found Brendan Gallagher in the crease and the latter made no mistake. Possibly off the skate, the assistant captain did what he does best; help his team with unflashy but game-defining goals.
The game went to overtime, and the Habs needed less than half a minute to complete the unexpected and impressive Halloween turnaround. Jeff Petry circled the blue line to find Max Domi alone against Fleury after Pacioretty failed to cover his net-dirve. Domi needed two tries, but he put his team on a three-game winning streak and silenced the home crowd, something you could see in his eyes that he clearly enjoyed.
Back-to-back road wins surely feels great for the Canadiens, who will next move on to Dallas to face the Stars on Saturday.