With another demoralizing loss in the bag, the Montreal Canadiens returned home from Pittsburgh to face the Dallas Stars. Nate Thompson was out with an illness and became replaced in the lineup by Dale Weise, meaning that Jake Evans would get a chance to center the fourth line. After being present in the warmup, Jonathan Drouin threw in the towel with a lower-body injury (later revealed to have occurred versus the Bruins on Wednesday) and was quickly replaced on the second line by expected scratch Jordan Weal. They say there’s no rest for the wicked, and the same is true for Carey Price, as he again got the nod, with this being his sixth start since February 6.
Montreal got off to a great start. Just as the clock passed the first minute of play, Joel Armia scored his 15th goal of the season. An impressive number, considering he has never before scored more than 13 goals in a whole season, and that he missed a double-digit number of games due to injury earlier in the year. This one was the product of a quick attack, where his linemates Artturi Lehkonen and Max Domi each got an assist after driving the puck over the blue line and toward the net. Armia positioned himself beautifully in the crease and beat Dallas goalie Ben Bishop on the rebound.
Mere seconds later, Brendan Gallagher could have doubled the lead when he — in typical Gallagher fashion — surged toward the net with no hesitation, dragging Stars defenders with him in the process only to be denied by Bishop that time. As if Montreal wasn’t already plagued enough by injuries, Gallagher left the ice early on to get a checkup by the physio. Thankfully he would return later on in the period, but looked to be dealing with something the rest of the night.
Price demonstrated that he was not fatigued from all the work, as he prevented Jamie Benn from getting his 300th goal. On a one-on-one scoring chance off a beautiful lob pass from Corey Perry, Benn tried to draw Price down and beat him with a backhand, but the Habs goalie read him like an open book.
Montreal decided to double their lead four minutes into the middle period. Nick Suzuki got a free lane to the right and was able to advance with relative ease from his own blue line all the way up to the goal line. Once there, he rocketed the puck in toward the goal, just as Weal moved into the crease and knocked it home; a nice little gift for a player thrown into the lineup just minutes before puck drop.
A few moments later, another secondary scorer would put his mark on the scoresheet. Passive defending from John Klingberg gave Nick Cousins both time and a clear shooting lane to beat Bishop to net his ninth as a Canadien.
Just as everything seemed as sunny as could be for the crowd at the Bell Centre, Montreal would yet again put their own foot in their mouth and give Dallas a way back into the game. Marco Scandella, uncontested in his own zone, tried to find a teammate with an up-ice pass, but instead put the puck right on Joe Pavelski’s blade. Pavelski acted quickly and gave Mattias Janmark an open net with a pass across the seam. Price looked moderately upset to have his shutout broken so unnecessarily, and Scandella rightfully apologized to his goaltender before going off for a change.
When Ben Chiarot took a slashing penalty a couple of minutes later, it felt like the momentum was about to shift. Montreal’s penalty kill survived that time. Minutes later, however, Armia received a questionable hooking minor. With seven seconds left of the power play, Tyler Seguin unleashed his slapshot while Price was screened, and Dallas had gone from absolute deflation — three goals down and mentally already on the flight home to Texas — to being one fortunate bounce away from tying the game up within seven minutes.
Nine minutes into the third period, the Stars scored the equalizer. Price went behind his goal to clear. The puck licked the boards and passed several players before ending up on the stick of Blake Comeau on the point. Comeau decided to take a flyer and shot a wrister toward the net, hoping for a lucky bounce. That was exactly what he got when his powerless effort surprised the Montreal goaltender, who did not have a clear view of the puck as he was being screened. Once again, the Habs had blown a multiple-score lead by basically handing the game over to the opposing team.
At least this night would not end up totally fruitless. The score after 60 minutes remained 3-3 and overtime would be needed to seperate the two sides, meaning another point added for the Habs.
The home team seemed rested entering overtime, creating the best scoring chances and having most of the possession. They should also have had a first power play of the night, when the referees inexplicably missed a tripping on Armia at neutral ice. Tuna Tatar still came close to ending the night on a high note when he tried to deke it past Bishop, who had closed up shop for the night.
Instead, Dallas ended it with their first clear overtime opportunity. A one-on-one breakaway put Seguin against Victor Mete. Mete was hurrying home from an offensive rush and ended up slightly misplaced against Seguin. The Dallas superstar tricked the Montreal youngster by moving the puck over to his backhand for a shot which he eventually hit home.
Two days of rest now await the Canadiens before they travel to Detroit on Tuesday night for the fourth outing of the year against the Red Wings. As the puck drops at 7.30 ET, the Habs will do their best to not end the year shut out by the worst team in the league. Detroit has a measly 14 wins during the 2019-20 season, but if it wasn’t for the Canadiens, generosity they would only have had 11.