The trio of Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar set a good tone in the first 20 seconds of Sunday’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes, with multiple shots from the slot. Max Domi’s line came out to do the same after a few shots from the Hurricanes the other way. Curtis McElhinney and Carey Price were standing tall in a game shaping up to be a battle of speed.
The Habs were extremely aggressive on the forecheck and gave some space in the neutral zone as a result when their forwards up the ice were caught in transition. Fortunately, no Grade-A chances from the slot resulted for the Hurricanes.
Shea Weber was forced to commit a trip to not allow a net-drive, allowing Carolina the first power play of the game to find those quality shots, but the Habs handily killed it off.
The Hurricanes kept buzzing in the Canadiens’ zone, completely shutting down their transition game. But a mental lapse on Carolina’s own breakout was enough for Montreal to capitalize. Nate Thompson knocked the puck loose along the boards for Gallagher to pick up, and he sent it to Byron, who deflected it past Curtis McElhinney.
At the start of the second period, Jesperi Kotkaniemi received a chance alone with the goalie after a turnover high in the Carolina zone, but was stopped by McElhinney. The Danault line created another turnover a minute later, but they couldn’t capitalize on an empty cage. They were a couple of really good looks for Montreal’s offence early on after being largely dominated in the first.
The Canadiens were handed their first power play after a high-sticking call to Carolina. The best chance came off a pass to the slot from Max Domi on the second wave, but the Habs couldn’t add to their lead.
Once the game returned to even strength, the fourth line of the Habs — the most consistent trio for the team since the start of the game — created another turnover that turned into two great chances from the slot. With a shot from the point, Jeff Petry got a favourable bounce that was barely missed by Montreal’s net-front forwards.
It took almost 15 minutes in the middle period for the Hurricanes to register their first shot of the period, but they followed it up by repeatedly testing Price.
Tomas Tatar made a dangerous play on the breakout and Carolina was placed back on the power play. There, we saw the importance of pre-scouting. Price put his stick down to cut a set play of the Hurricanes — a pass from the goal line to the slot — and Montreal jumped on the loose puck to clear the zone. They prevented Carolina from getting back in to establish their possession for the remaining few seconds.
If his defenders won't block the pass into the slot, Carey Price most certainly will. pic.twitter.com/G8zBfzHKkr— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 25, 2019
The Canadiens took yet another penalty early in the third, a Jordan Weal high stick after a prolonged shift in the defensive zone, after sustained pressure from Carolina was created by a few missed clearing attempts from Shea Weber.
Danault showed a Herculean effort on the penalty kill, resulting in Montreal getting the best scoring chance: a two-on-one on which Artturi Lehkonen decided to shoot, but missed.
The Habs lacked energy in the third period, and after a barrage of chances by Carolina following the penalty kill, Trevor van Riemsdyk shot from the point and the puck deflected in front to change course. It beat Price and the game was tied.
Montreal’s fourth line had the best chance following the goal. A pass from Weal on the half-wall was deflected in front by Thompson. A couple of minutes later, Gallagher took the puck to the front of the net from below the goal line, as he often does. Both attempts were blocked, leaving the game locked in a 1-1 tie.
Both teams spent the last five minutes clogging the neutral zone, content to escape with a point.
At the start of overtime, Byron accelerated through all three zones and dropped the puck to Domi, who shot it off the shoulder of McElhinney. But after another prolonged presence in the offensive zone by Carolina, and a bad change by the Habs, Andrei Svechnikov ended the game with a precise shot between Price’s legs.
- Three points out of a possible four over the weekend is a good scenario for the Habs with Columbus still in hot pursuit.
- That said, Carey Price is the sole reason why Montreal had a point in this game. The team couldn’t elevate its performance to his level. It can’t be a recurring theme with every game mattering so much until the end of the season.