Tuesday night’s defeat in Columbus marked the end of a six-game point streak for the Montreal Canadiens. Does a loss equal major lineup changes? Not for Claude Julien. The only switcheroo was putting Ben Chiarot on the top pairing with Shea Weber, and Victor Mete therefore pairing with Jeff Petry instead. Wednesday’s game also marked the first time this season that Carey Price continued in net for the second night of a back-to-back.
There were some great scenes before the game as Guy Carbonneau became the 59th member in the Canadiens’ Ring of Honor. As a sign of how everything comes around in the end, Ron Hainsey, Montreal’s first draft pick of the new millennium, took the celebratory faceoff, together with Weber and Carbonneau.
The scenes weren’t so great moments after the ovations stopped and the game began. Max Domi broke his stick on the opening faceoff, and Mete got sent to the penalty box for a double minor less than a minute in after high-sticking Connor Brown.
Would the Ottawa Senators be able to ignite their faulty power play against the Canadiens’ abysmal penalty kill with four minutes of opportunities and reasonably fresh legs on the ice? The answer is no. Instead, the Canadiens’ created the best chances while being a man down. Ottawa managed to muster up just a single shot and spent most of their time chasing an efficient offensive-zone entry.
Charles Hudon had a couple of opportunities to prove himself as a viable replacement scorer for the coaching staff during the first period. First, he fired from out left and hit the outside of the post. Minutes later, he came into a decent position on the right instead, forcing Craig Anderson to make the save.
Near the midpoint of the period, youngster Cale Fleury did what he does best and delivered a tough but clean hit on Vladimir Namestnikov. Unfortunately, the latter was thrown off-balance, fell into the boards, and had to be helped to the locker room. Namestnikov would not return to the ice for the rest of the night.
The first power play for the home team came with 50 seconds left of the first. Jesperi Kotkaniemi got pushed to the ice trying to net an Artturi Lehkonen rebound and Nikita Zaitsev got called for cross checking.
The period ended with an opportunity out right for Weber, who missed the goal after being well set up with a sweeping cross-ice pass from Jordan Weal. You could see how Weal glanced at the jumbotron to figure out how many seconds he had to play with before he delivered the pass with just about three seconds left.
Forty-four seconds into the second, while still being on the power play, Montreal scored the first goal of the night. Petry shot from the blue line with Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault disturbing Anderson in front of the net. The puck came back out and ended up in front of Nick Suzuki, giving the rookie an open goal for his sixth of the season.
A few moments later, the lead could have been doubled as a Lehkonen shot was redirected by Weal, but Anderson was in position to make the save.
Colin White could have had the equalizer on a Senators breakaway, but his stick managed to break just as a Tyler Ennis rebound ended up behind Price in the middle of the crease. Lucky for Montreal - unlucky for White.
If you asked any hockey fan or expert before the season who would lead the NHL in goals in the second month of the season, surely nobody would have answered Jean-Gabriel Pageau. As situation would have it, this is now fact. Pageau scored his 13th of the season and his 10th of November with a net-front deflection off an Ennis shot.
The goal opened up revolving doors on the defence after Montreal had been limiting Ottawa to single-digit shots on goal. Price had to show his worth not once but twice before the period was over to save his team from entering the last third of the game with a deficit.
Halfway through the final period, Brett Kulak went to the box on a delay-of-game penalty after lifting the puck over the glass and into his bench from his own zone. Directed by their playmaker Thomas Chabot, Ottawa managed to create more pressure than during their first advantage, but the score remained equal as Kulak re-entered play.
The Senators defended the tie well, placing many bodies behind the puck and waiting patiently for possible breakaways. Montreal did not know how to efficiently attack such a defensive scheme, resulting in a third period with few quality scoring chances in either direction. Overtime would eventually be needed to create a winner.
The home team had the first chance to score in the three-on-three frame. Gallagher received a forward pass up the middle from Danault, while the latter moved into a backing position around the blue line. Gallagher tried to end the game with a backhand, but Anderson was once again awake and made the stop.
Ottawa won the following faceoff and things moved quickly from there. Suzuki and Tomas Tatar could not decide on who should be following Brady Tkachuk when he strode up from his own zone toward the Canadiens’ end. This gave the high-octane forward a free lane to the net, and when Chris Tierney placed the puck right on his stick, all Tkachuk had to do was wait for Price to show some kind of a tell and place the game-winner beneath the goaltender’s pads.
Wild celebrations from the Senators ensued after an unnecessary loss for the Canadiens in the first match of their long five-game homestand. Whoever was hoping for a quick bounce-back from the loss against the Blue Jackets would have been sorely disappointed, both by the effort in the offensive zone and by the final result.
Montreal will now have until Saturday evening to figure things out, when the New York Rangers with a red-hot Artemiy Panarin visit the Bell Centre for these teams’ first outing of the season.