Things were not well with the Montreal Canadiens as they landed in San Jose for a game with the San Jose Sharks. The Habs hadn’t won in San Jose since 1999, and hadn’t won in regulation since 1997. For reference, the last time Montreal beat the Sharks away from Montreal, the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game was released for the PlayStation and Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace was dominating theaters.
The Canadiens needed to get off on the right foot, and with Dominique Ducharme opting to make no lineup changes, there were a lot of players who had a spotlight on them to step up and fill that role. Jake Allen once again took the starter’s role for the night, and opposite of him was Adin Hill for the Sharks.
The Habs jumped out of the gate early on, with their first line generating some in-tight chances thanks to Mike Hoffman and Brendan Gallagher swinging away at some loose pucks. However, the pressure then shifted in the Sharks’ favour as they kept Montreal trapped on their half of the ice. Before long the Sharks had drawn a penalty, with Joel Armia heading to the box.
While the penalty kill is still a far cry from its form in the playoffs, the defenders flipped the pressure back on the Sharks as they pushed them out of the zone repeatedly, even generating a few chances on their own. With the penalty killed, off to work the fourth line went, with Cédric Paquette and Artturi Lehkonen pestering Hill, but they too were unable to chip one past the Sharks’ netminder.
Then the Canadiens struck after starting the game so well. Nick Suzuki circled through the offensive zone and dished a pass back to Brett Kulak at the point. Kulak let his shot go and it kicked off Hill for a huge rebound that fell into the path of Hoffman. The Habs winger calmly pulled the puck back away from Hill’s glove, and tucked it neatly around the sprawling goalie to put Montreal on top with just under eight minutes left to play.
Montreal’s lead was tested shortly afterward as Armia took another poorly timed penalty with just over two minutes left in the period. Again the penalty-killers, especially Jake Allen, came up with a solid display to secure the lead as the first period ended.
The second kicked off with a third straight Montreal penalty, this time on Suzuki for a hook. The Sharks’ man advantage came out much more composed on this attempt, testing Allen heavily and requiring a handful of timely saves. Even with the penalty killed, Allen had to keep sharp, especially when Jonah Gadjovich sprung a two-on-one with Andrew Cogliano. Allen sprawled across and stole what looked like a sure goal to keep the Habs in front.
After all that, it was finally the Canadiens’ turn on the power play as Brendan Gallagher was tripped up by Jacob Middleton. With a prime chance to extend their lead, the Canadiens power play struggled to do much of anything, and the Sharks easily handled the two minutes.
The Canadiens still kept the momentum going in their favour, thanks to a really smart defensive play from Drouin. He jumped up through the faceoff circle to swipe a telegraphed pass from Brent Burns to Mario Ferraro. With the puck on his stick deep in the offensive zone, he bumped a pass back to the point and Alexander Romanov ripped the shot past Hill for his first goal of the season.
The pressure didn’t let up from there, as David Savard dangled around Jonah Gadjovich, drawing a kneeing penalty and putting the Habs back on the power play. This time they made it count, as Suzuki fired a hard pass to the slot for Josh Anderson. The big winger fired a shot on Hill that then rebounded right into Brendan Gallagher, who directed the puck home for a third Montreal goal.
When Savard returned the favour by tripping up an attacking forward, the penalty kill was all about Allen as the goalie continued to play a blinder, denying the Sharks on multiple occasions to keep Montreal’s three-goal lead intact heading into the intermission.
The fourth line came out of the gate flying to start the third period, with both Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen hammering back-to-back chances on Hill, but neither finding the back of the net. Then again it was Allen making incredible stop after incredible stop, including a last-second sprawling pad save on a Nick Bonino tip in front.
Montreal was rewarded for surviving that early storm as well, with Brett Kulak taking a high stick to the face and giving Montreal another power-play opportunity. Even with Cole Caufield getting a few clean looks on net, the Montreal lead stayed at three as the penalty expired.
In what was the story of the night, it was all Allen from there as every single Sharks possession ended with the Habs netminder making a key save to deny a goal. With time running low the Sharks eventually pulled Hill for the extra attacker, but that wasn’t enough to overcome Montreal’s goaltender
Josh Anderson sealed the win with a 200-foot empty-net goal, and Alexander Romanov provided some fireworks as he threw down in a spirited fight with Jonah Gadjovich in the final seconds of the game after a huge hit.
Final Score: Montreal 4, San Jose 0
Next up for the Habs is a reunion with Phillip Danault and the Los Angeles King at 4:00 PM ET on Saturday.