As John Lu says, the flu has the Montreal Canadiens firmly in its grippe, but there was still a game to be played on Thursday. The opponent was a woeful Anaheim Ducks team that has yet to take the next step forward in its rebuild. The Canadiens limped into the contest minus Shea Weber, who was shifted to the IR following, presumably, a shot block against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Joining the team for the game was Jake Evans, with Ryan Poehling and Jordan Weal out with the flu. After a two-goal performance for the Laval Rocket on Wednesday, Evans was put on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Max Domi, a big ask for the rookie but one he was prepared for.
After missing the game on Tuesday, Carey Price was back between the pipes, facing John Gibson who is often the only person keeping the Ducks competitive most nights.
Under a minute into the game, the Canadiens went to the penalty kill as Victor Mete was called for knocking the net off its moorings. Montreal’s penalty-killers did well to keep the Ducks at bay. Then, on his first shift after the penalty expired, Evans broke away but was denied a goal on his backhand by Gibson.
Montreal’s offence remained in neutral as the first period wore on, being outshot 9-3. Jakob Silfverberg eventually found his way through two Habs defenders, creating a breakaway of his own while being hooked by a trailing Ben Chiarot. While the play seemed certain to be a penalty shot, it was called as a two-minute minor, and another Montreal penalty kill. Some big saves from Price denied the Ducks a power play marker again.
Shortly after, the Canadiens drew a call of their own for a late power play. Unlike the Ducks’, the Canadiens’ attack managed to find a goal, even without the major threat of Shea Weber’s shot. Tomas Tatar started the cycle, feeding a pass to Jeff Petry at the point. Petry fired a pass to the right circle for Nick Suzuki, who waited then fired a shot through a drifting Brendan Gallagher screen to put Montreal up by a goal.
Moments after the puck dropped in the second, Suzuki was working below the goal line, then fired a shot that beat Gibson but not the crossbar as it bounced out of the goalmouth. The lines continued to roll over the Ducks following that start, and for their efforts Montreal went back to the power play with Ryan Getzlaf going off for roughing. The man advantage failed to cash in, giving up an odd-man rush for the Ducks that Carey Price fended off with aplomb.
A long shift saw Ben Chiarot and Mete trapped in their own end, and even with a clear they were unable to get the change they needed. The Ducks took advantage, as Silfverberg took a pass from behind the net and caught the tired defenders unaware on the tying goal.
The lead didn’t stand for long as the Canadiens went right back to work, capitalizing on lax defensive coverage from Anaheim. After Suzuki dangled his way around the defence on his shift, it was the top line’s chance to make something happen. Brendan Gallagher left a puck for Ilya Kovalchuk, who skated behind the net, and as he circled he found a soft spot and tossed a pass into the slot. Waiting there was Gallagher, who had no issues burying his chance for a one-goal Canadiens lead.
An early mistake in the the third erased the lead very quickly as the Ducks took advantage of Montreal’s sloppy play. The Habs’ fourth line lost control in their own zone, and as Dale Weise attempted to clear the puck he put it right on an Anaheim stick, which soon resulted in Derek Grant beating Price five-hole.
A second Nick Ritchie penalty presented Montreal with a massive power play opportunity midway through the period. Tatar nearly provided the breakthrough, but his shot rang off the cross bar and out, then as the advantage was coming to its end, Joel Armia’s shot was gloved in close by Gibson to keep the game tied.
It was Carey Price who brought the Bell Centre crowd to its feet late in the third period with a massive save on Silfverberg. A mishandled puck bounced to Rickard Rakell, who fed it to Silfverberg, and the Ducks sniper had a wide-open net to shoot at — until Price slid across with an old-school two-pad stack, forcing overtime with a critical stop.
The overtime didn’t last long as the Canadiens put an emphatic end to the game just 25 seconds in. Petry collected a pass from Armia and took off down the ice. As he entered the Ducks’ zone, he pulled back to load up a shot and blistered one into the far corner of the net for the game-winner.
A major contest now looms for the Canadiens, as the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs roll into town for a Saturday night showdown. Montreal now sits just four points behind the Leafs and five out of third place in the Atlantic Division.