Confidence is a funny thing, and it can be fleeting. On Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, the game was going away from the Montreal Canadiens. After 57 minutes of almost perfect hockey, Montreal was holding on to a slim 3-2 lead with under a minute remaining.
Carey Price was forced to make a big save. The Canadiens iced the puck. They had a tired group on the ice for the next face off. Nate Thompson won the draw back to Shea Weber who fired it the length of the ice and into the empty net.
On Captains Night, it was a fitting end not only to the team’s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders but to an eight-game losing streak.
The Canadiens dominated the Islanders through the majority of the game. They took what the Islanders gave them and attacked them throughout. They got contributions from all four lines.
It started off well for the Canadiens with chances coming early from Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen. Gustav Olofsson took a penalty, which given the Montreal penalty kill could have been dangerous. They kept attacking the Islanders. Lehkonen created the first of many shorthanded chances he would muster in the game, and that was followed by the world’s slowest two on one allowed the Canadiens to keep momentum.
The Canadiens came close to opening the scoring when Nate Thompson and Matthew Peca combined to have a great chance, but the puck didn’t cross the line and Jordan Weal was just a bit late to the loose puck.
Montreal finally did open the scoring in the last second of the first period. Phillip Danault took a pass from Brendan Gallagher, and after his first shot was blocked, fired a second that beat Thomas Greiss with only 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
In a year where Montreal has allowed a large number of late goals, it was a fitting way to start the game that ended the team’s long losing streak.
In the second period, the Canadiens would continue the pressure. In fact, through the first two periods, Montreal didn’t allow a high danger scoring chance to the Islanders and allowed only six shots at even strength.
The bottom six of the Canadiens set the tone. The line of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joel Armia, and Lehkonen started it off with offensive zone pressure. Carey Price would start a rush of his own feeding Thompson with a pass who made a great zone entry and found Peca with a cross-ice pass.
The first line was the one to double the Canadiens lead. Brendan Gallagher tipped a Weber shot that Greiss saved before putting home the rebound.
Penalties continued to hurt the Canadiens late in the period. After Jeff Petry was called for a dubious penalty that the team killed, Carey Price got into a bit of battle with Brock Nelson. After Nelson pushed Price and Price pushed back, Nelson went back again and this time Price slashed Nelson being called for another penalty.
Carey Price demonstrates two ways to deal with a screen. Neither is officially recommended. pic.twitter.com/MjaSY3pSo6— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) December 4, 2019
The Canadiens killed that penalty as well as Lehkonen started the third period with another shorthanded chance.
Back at even strength, Nick Suzuki — who had himself a great game — had a great chance, putting a shot just wide while falling. The sequence would force an offensive zone face off that Suzuki won back to Jeff Petry who walked the line and fired a shot through a screen.
Just 41 seconds after Petry’s goal, Scott Mayfield would put a shot of his own through traffic to get the Islanders on the board. All this happened within the first 2:53 of the third period.
Suzuki’s strong game continued with a great rush that may have been one of his stronger plays since the season started. Greiss ended up making the save.
Greiss, who made 36 saves on the night, needed to leave the game for a bit after his skate blade came off of the boot. Semyon Varlamov came into the game while it was repaired but Greiss returned after 39 seconds without the Canadiens testing Varlamov.
The Islanders put more pressure on the Canadiens throughout the third period, having their best period on the night, but could not beat Price, who made 21 saves and was very solid in net. Montreal attacked on their own and weren’t sitting back.
That changed with 2:29 remaining. A relatively harmless-looking sequence tightened the game up when Mathew Barzal was left along at the side of the net and tipped a Nick Leddy shot past Price to make it 3-2.
New York would not come closer than that before Weber’s empty net goal.
The Canadiens play their next game on Thursday when they host the Colorado Avalanche before heading to New York City to face the Rangers on Friday. Cayden Primeau should be expected to make his NHL debut in one of those games.