The Montreal Canadiens found themselves in a bit of an odd spot heading into their Saturday night clash with the Detroit Red Wings. Not only had the Habs dominated both previous meetings with Detroit, they came into Saturday night’s game in a run of fairly solid form. They took a red-hot Los Aangeles Kings team into overtime on Tuesday and came up just short, then bounced back with a huge win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
After a successful game on Thursday, Dominique Ducharme opted to keep his lineup the exact same, right down to Jake Allen getting the nod as the starter again. However, they had a new wrinkle to contend with in Detroit’s lineup, as Tyler Bertuzzi was in for this game. Bertuzzi wasn’t able to play either game in Montreal after refusing a vaccine for COVID-19 and being denied entry to Canada because of it.
The early pressure fell to the Habs, who got a clean look on net by Nick Suzuki, and they followed that up with a strong shift from Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia. After Armia missed a chance in close on net, the puck went the other way and Ben Chiarot ended up interfering with Bertuzzi, who was also shaken up on the play.
The Red Wings power play did well to spread the Canadiens’ penalty kill all over the zone, but the Habs’ active sticks kept Detroit from creating any truly dangerous chances. With the penalty killed, Montreal began to amp the pressure back up against the Wings, and the fourth line finally found the back of the net.
Chris Wideman headmanned a puck up the ice for Michael Pezzetta, who flew into the offensive zone while backing off the defenders in front of him. With some space created, Pezzetta laid a puck off for Ryan Poehling, who was flying into the open space deep in the zone. From there it was Poehling sniping one far-side and in to grab his first NHL goal of the season, and put the Habs in the lead early on.
Pezzetta wasn’t done there however, as he also had the next best chance of the game. A long stretch-pass eluded the Detroit defence, and Pezzetta blew by both of them to create a breakaway chance out of nothing, but his one-handed lunge attempt was pushed just wide of the net.
The first period continued to belong to Pezzetta as he sent Detroit to their second power play of the night after being called for a slash. The Canadiens’ PK put in a strong shift, killing off the minor. The game didn’t stay at five-on-five for very long as Pezzetta and Moritz Seider took coincidental roughing minors, and then Bertuzzi was called for a slash, giving the Canadiens a four-on-three opportunity, which they couldn’t capitalize on.
The period ended on a scary note as Dylan Larkin flew past Jeff Petry through the neutral zone, and defenceman partially caught up to Larkin, wrapping him up and then pushing him into Jake Allen. The Canadiens netminder stayed in for the next faceoff, but was soon pulled from the game by the concussion spotter, leaving Samuel Montembeault to finish the period and the game.
Montreal’s failure to convert on their power play came back to bite them in fairly short order. Early in the second Larkin collected a pass along the red line, and with next to no angle he fired one over Montembeault’s shoulder to tie the game.
Not even a minute later, a pass to Pius Suter in the high slot hit Montembeault in the glove, and then went into the net to give Detroit a lead with just two quick shots in the period.
Montreal was handed another golden chance to tie the game up as Detroit was whistled for a hook on Lehkonen through the neutral zone. The man advantage continued to struggle and wasn’t able to find their tying goal, and the Wings used that as momentum to continue hounding Montembeault with shots. After a rough start, the Habs netminder settled in to stop them.
The fourth line continued its strong game, though, with Alex Belzile drawing an interference call to give Montreal another crack on the power play. In what has been a season-long issue, the advantage generated little in terms of attack and spurred the Red Wings to continue punishing the Habs’ failure to score. Luckily for Montreal, Montembeault stood tall, and the second period came to a close with the Habs trailing by just a goal.
Montreal’s third period started much better than the second one ended, as Josh Anderson broke in on an odd-man rush, but his shot and rebounds were swallowed up quickly. The Habs’ bottom six followed it up with an even better shift and found the tying goal thanks to a huge play from Artturi Lehkonen.
The Finn broke into the Detroit zone, getting a chance on net before being slammed into the end boards. As he got up to one knee. he flicked a no-look backhand pass to Chris Wideman, who in turn wired the shot off the post and in to tie the game up.
The rough-and-tumble game continued as both sides traded chances deep into the third period, but both Alex Nedeljkovic and Montembeault held their respective forts and the Atlantic Division rivals headed for some extra hockey in Detroit.
The overtime period was again unkind to the Canadiens, as the Red Wings were able to come away with the second point. After Tyler Toffoli fed Jake Evans for a chance, the Wings took control of the puck and never gave it back. A Lucas Raymond-led rush forced Montembeault to make a great pad save, but it kicked the rebound to Larkin. For the second time on the night Larkin rifled one just under the bar from below the red line, only this time it ended the game, a 3-2 decision for the home side.
The Canadiens don’t have long to lick their wounds as they travel to Boston now for a game with the Boston Bruins at 7:00 PM.