How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Golden Knights region: ATTSN-RM
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The Canadiens had one of their good games on Thursday, which at this point usually means the goaltender makes up for a lack of defensive focus to allow the team to get to work on offence. Carey Price was stopping plenty of quality chances the Philadelphia Flyers were generating, and making it look easy in the process, which certainly helped the confidence level of his teammates. It was Price’s third consecutive game with a save percentage of .976 or better after a couple of sub-.900 outings.
At the other end, Montreal was able to take advantage of a netminder making his season debut with a four-goal outburst. Ilya Kovalchuk had two on the night, his most productive game since the 2018-19 season finale with the Los Angeles Kings against the Vegas Golden Knights. He’ll try to keep his offensive streak rolling when he faces Vegas once again in the Canadiens’ final game before the bye week.
Tale of the Tape
|53.9% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||53.8% (3rd)|
|3.02 (16th)||Goals per game||3.04 (15th)|
|3.10 (18th)||Goals against per game||3.02 (14th)|
|20.7% (13th)||PP%||21.9% (8th)|
|78.6% (22nd)||PK%||78.8% (21st)|
Kovlachuk found the second goal in Thursday’s game, which stood up as the game-winner, by being in the right place at the right time on the power play. He now has two clinching markers in his seven-game tenure in Montreal.
As important as those two goals from the free agent were, Tomas Tatar had perhaps the most critical tally just seconds after the Flyers opened the scoring — yet another poor display of defending around the net — at the end of the first period. Two more assists later in the game brought is season point total up to 43 points on the year, and put him over the century mark in his time with the Habs.
Not much was expected from Tatar when he was first acquired from the Golden Knights. He may not have the same penalty-killing chops of Max Pacioretty, and even at his most prolific he’s not threatening to hit the 40-goal plateau, but he has seamlessly taken the former captain’s role as top-line left-winger, and few of the issues preventing this team from making the post-season (maybe forcing a poor penalty kill onto the ice too often at the start of the year counts) can be traced to that player swap — especially when you consider how well Nick Suzuki is playing in his first NHL season.
The play of Tatar, who had been benched in Vegas after the organization had given up a haul of picks to acquire him, may have played a part in the decision by Kelly McCrimmon to fire head coach Gerard Gallant this week. The Golden Knights were out of a playoff spot at that point, but one win later they’re right back in a Pacific Division race that’s poised to go right down to the wire. The club now has 56 points, one up on Edmonton in the wild-card race, and one behind both Calgary and Arizona for the division lead. McCrimmon clearly felt his team should have distanced itself from that fight. Considering the assets moved out to boost the club last season, not only in the Pacioretty acquisition, but also paying a substantial price to the Ottawa Senators for Mark Stone at the deadline, he surely expected to have more wins than losses after 49 games of the season.
Peter DeBoer got the win in his debut as the replacement, a 4-2 decision over the Ottawa Senators on what is an eight-game road trip for the team from Nevada. The four-game losing streak that convinced the team to pull the plug on Gallant is now over, and they’re eager to rack up a few more points ahead of what is a tough end to the voyage.
All members of the Canadiens organization are still intent on making the post-season themselves, so they have no intention of simply handing over the two points. They’ve fared well versus the NHL’s newest organization, with a 4-1 record so far, including an overtime victory on Halloween night at T-Mobile Arena. If they can get the season sweep, they head into their bye week with 51 points, then wait to see how things have shaken out by All-Star Weekend a week from now.