After their longest losing streak in nearly a century, the Montreal Canadiens emerged from their slide by alternating wins and losses over the last three games. Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road in the first game of a back-to-back set, a very important two points hung in the balance as the home team currently occupies a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
That being said, Montreal’s best chance of making the playoffs as of now is probably to get into the top three of the surprisingly weak Atlantic division. But to have any shot at the playoffs, they’ll need every point they can get.
It did not start well at all, as a Ben Chiarot turnover at the offensive blueline led to a two-on-one for Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel. The latter received a perfect pass from the former across the slot, and it was 1-0 for the Penguins before the five minute mark.
Fortunately for the Habs, that was it for scoring in the first. Despite being outshot two-to-one, and the Penguins controlling 60% of the even-strength shot attempts, Carey Price held strong to allow for a close 1-0 game heading into the second period.
Montreal came out with much more energy to start the second, and began to creep back into the game at least in terms of shots. Nick Suzuki threw a ridiculous saucer pass to Nick Cousins in the slot, but the latter couldn’t capitalize against Tristan Jarry.
Jarry was proving very difficult to solve in the frame, but the Habs got a power play just after the 10-minute mark that provided them with a golden opportunity. Though it wasn’t going super well to begin with, a broken play led to Brendan Gallagher finding Tomas Tatar in the slot, and just like that it was tied at one.
And that wasn’t all the Habs had for the period. With around four minutes to play, Joel Armia flipped the puck up in the air on a dump out, chased it down himself, and fought through a hook to get his shot off and make it 2-1 for the Tricolore.
And right before the period ended, Shea Weber treated us to one of the most unlikely, but beautiful goals you’re likely to see this month. He got the puck on the rush, decided to forego his patented clapper, and wrapped it around the back door like he was a forward.
I honestly didn’t even know Shea Weber could pull something like that off, but his gorgeous play made it 3-1 for the Tricolore. After a very discouraging first frame, the Habs completely flipped the script and took a two goal lead into the third.
If the Habs flipped the script in the second, the Penguins were determined to return things to order in the third. The Habs seemed content to sit on their two-goal lead, and this allowed the Penguins to take back control of the game. Thankfully, Carey Price was very sound in his crease as the shots piled up for the Penguins.
But it didn’t matter, because once the Penguins pulled Jarry for the extra skater, Brendan Gallagher showed some of his classic hustle to get the goal and guarantee a 4-1 win and a very valuable two points for the Habs.
You can fault the Habs for sitting on their two goal lead, and also for starting the game slower than molasses. But they did manage to seal the deal, and their second period effort was worth the price of admission.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was a very important win, and the first time they’ve managed consecutive ones since before Christmas decorations truly invaded our retail spaces.
- About that second period; it was very big. Outside of that frame, the Penguins ran roughshod over the Canadiens, controlling 60.44% of even-strength shot attempts. However, the Habs controlled 54.05% in the second, and they rode 100% of the high-danger scoring chances in that frame to a two goal lead.
- Carey Price didn’t exactly steal this game, but he was a big reason they took home the two points. If not for him, the Penguins easily could have taken a two or three goal lead into the first intermission. Price gave the Habs a reprieve for their slow start, allowing that second frame to be the deciding one. He also allowed them to sit on their lead in the third, so you could say he was the bread to the winning sandwich the Habs made last night.
- I mentioned Nick Suzuki’s pass in the second, but he made several impressive dishes on the night. He may not have found the scoresheet against Pittsburgh, but he seems to be getting better and better, and it is extremely fun to watch him do his thing.
- Brendan Gallagher is the engine of this team. He has six points in his last four games, and even if you forget the empty netter he scored last night — which is hard to do considering it took serious hustle — he’d be on an impressive run. He legitimately deserves the captaincy, and the only thing stopping him from having it is that the guy who does doesn’t deserve to be stripped of it...
- I am still in awe of Shea Weber’s goal. It seems to be the continuation of a recent trend where he gets more involved in the rush, and this time it ended with a highlight reel goal. It was a stark contrast to the habitual late-period goal against that the Habs give up. It was electrifying.
- No rest, so here’s hoping that the Habs can do what they did in the second last night for 60 minutes tonight, at home, against the Ottawa Senators.