The Montreal Canadiens were presented with the worst team the NHL has to offer in their bid to head out on a lengthy road trip with a four-game winning streak. The Detroit Red Wings got their eighth win of the season to halt a 12-game losing streak just a few days before the game at the Bell Centre, coming in with a mere 19 points.
That win seemed to give the visitors a rare bit of confidence, as they started the game the more energized team. After a few shifts played in Montreal’s end, they found an early goal as Dylan Larkin made a pass from behind the net to find Tyler Bertuzzi.
Montreal tried to respond. A shift from the top line brought Montreal’s first good look on Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier. As they tried to extend the offensive-zone presence with a cycle along the boards, Brendan Gallagher was called for a crosscheck below the goal line, turning the situation on its head and giving Detroit a shot at a second goal.
Phillip Danault had the best chance of the power play, racing in a step ahead of a scrambling Red Wings player for a short-handed rush, but was denied. A good play in the slot by Nate Thompson at the end of the advantage thwarted the opposition on their best look, and the game returned to five-on-five.
With that penalty kill behind them, the Habs started to find their game. Ryan Poehling did some good work along the wall to steal the puck and quickly sling it to the point for one chance. For the remainder of the period, including a power-play chance of their own, Montreal was all over the Red Wings in their zone, but couldn’t beat Bernier or the posts behind him.
Expecting that style of play to continue in the second period, it was a fairly evenly played middle frame. Montreal held the slight edge in shots, but yet again none proved dangerous enough to become goals. The one power play in the second went to the Red Wings as Artturi Lehkonen was called for interference, while Jeff Petry and Anthony Mantha served coincidental double-minors for a short wrestling bout.
Even after the 40 minutes of futility, the Canadiens were down just one goal when the third started. An energetic opening few minutes presented them with several opportunities to tie the game. The building momentum was halted when Riley Barber’s attempt to prevent a zone clearance got him whistled for slashing. Now with a chance to increase their lead, the Red Wings found a way with their third man advantage, as Mike Green scored his second goal of the year one minute in.
It was a deflating goal for the home side, who had trouble regaining that same level over the remaining 12 minutes. With the net empty and the clock winding down, they eventually found a goal as Tomas Tatar let a shot fly from the blue line, this one clanking off iron in the back of the net to put the game back in touch.
There were 47 seconds remaining to find another, and the Canadiens once again got into the offensive zone, but, as they had for most of the night, they had difficulty getting to the front of the net, and the horn sounded with the puck drifting back toward Montreal’s end.
- We normally add this plot of shot attempts to recaps, as they offer some critical context to how the game played out. In recent games, this chart has had a large dot around the crease, showing Montreal’s focus on getting to the high-danger areas. Last night they didn’t get to the front of the net, just as likely to launch a shot from the perimeter as the home-plate area. The Red Wings were doing a fairly good job of just drfiting back into the slot as a four-man box when Montreal had possession, but even so, there was more Montreal could have done to test the defensive alignment.
- Nick Suzuki was looking very good once again, ending the night as one of the top chance-generators. At some point we’ll need to stop highlighting that, because it seems to be his default state now after quickly adjusting to the NHL in the opening weeks.
- For whatever reason, the Habs have been unable to solve the Red Wings, with the Bell Centre serving as the venue for two of their nine wins in the opening two-and-a-half months. There’s nothing they can do about those results now, they simply move on the upcoming games. That means a four-game west-to-east trip through the Western Canadian cities, starting on Tuesday night in Vancouver.