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Canadiens vs Hurricanes game recap: Penalized by the offer-sheet Finns

Sebastian Aho scored twice and Jesperi Kotkaniemi got his first as a ‘Cane, as Montreal falls to 0-5.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go again. Game five of the young season with the Montreal Canadiens still awaiting their first competitive victory since July 5.

Jake Allen started in net, Alexander Romanov got paired together with David Savard on the third defensive pairing, and Nick Suzuki got an opportunity to play alongside Mike Hoffman and Brendan Gallagher on the first line.

A flurry of early penalties saw Montreal get a four-on-three man advantage for a little over a minute. The power play continued to look just as blunt as before. When two of the penalized players had returned onto the ice, leaving Andrei Svechnikov all alone in the sin bin, Chris Wideman suddenly unleashed a point shot. Gallagher did what he enjoys the most and screened the goalie, while simultaneously getting his stick on the puck to steer it in a new direction.

It looked like the Canadiens finally got some momentum through an early lead, however Carolina’s bench decided to challenge the goal for possible goaltender interference. After a brief discussion, the team of referees decided that there was a case to be made that Gallagher had in fact interfered with Frederik Andersen’s ability to stop the puck. Thus, the goal was waved off and the game remained scoreless.

Another goalless power play minutes later meant that the Habs were sporting a less-than-flattering record of zero goals in 15 man advantages. What’s even worse is how they got there. There was no energy, no ideas, and no controlled zone entries. The puck seemed to be made out of lead and refused to find its way from one teammate to another.

What had started off half-decently could easily have become a proper nightmare when we approached the end of the first period. A constantly booed Jesperi Kotkaniemi was left all alone in front of the Montreal net after a turnover. Luckily for the home side, the puck got tangled up in the skates of the 2018 third overall pick.

Christian Dvorak was penalized with one-and-a-half minutes left of the opening period, leaving the Canadiens to fend off being a man down for the remainder of the first as well as the first few seconds of the middle period. With five seconds left until Dvorak would return onto the ice in the second, Carolina’s number 20, Sebastian Aho, released a beautiful one-timer to open the scoring.

This meant that the trend of conceding at least one goal per game on the penalty kill continued through Thursday.

Less than two minutes later, another one of the Hurricanes’ young offensive rhinestones doubled the lead for the guests from Raleigh. Svechnikov received a puck down low and managed to beat Allen high from almost no angle whatsoever.

It took nearly 20 tries, but suddenly it happened. The Montreal Canadiens scored on the power play. While Svechnikov was serving time in the box, Tyler Toffoli was left all alone in front of Andersen and pounced on a pass from Nick Suzuki. The relief in Toffoli’s eyes after scoring was obvious and was without a doubt shared by all Canadiens fans watching this game.

Svechnikov wasn’t done there. He would go on to spend two additional minutes in the box of shame before the evening was over, this time for a tripping minor.

Speaking of firsts. Jesperi Kotkaniemi had not registered a point yet in his Hurricanes career. That changed midway into the third period, when he was left all alone in front of the net. Aho got possession of the puck down low and passed it up to Brady Skjei near the point. Skjei released a shot on goal and Kotkaniemi redirected it to beat Allen.

What we had feared had now come true: Montreal was charging head-first toward its fifth consecutive loss, and it was their own former first-round selection – a man who just months earlier was the overtime hero in the series against Toronto – who now scored a very decisive goal against his former team.

With three minutes left to play, Dominique Ducharme went for broke and brought an extra attacker onto the ice. The Canadiens managed to get a semi-successful offensive game flowing for these last minutes of the night. If not for fabulous play from the Canes’ Danish netminder, as well as a fair share of bad luck, Montreal could and should have crept closer in the scoring column.

Instead, Aho got the very last word as he scored his second goal of the evening in the empty net with 23 seconds yet to be played to seal the 4-1 win for his team.

The Canadiens continue their dreadful start to the season. At this point, a playoff spot is not even something to discuss. Even a single win feels like it’s miles away as the team is currently performing.

On Saturday, the Habs will at least try to break the negative spell when they face off against their bogeyman from pre-Covid days; the Detroit Red Wings, in the final game of this homestand.