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Canadiens @ Rangers game recap: Defence evaporates, Primeau a beacon of light

Montreal lost this game, but it was not for a lack of effort from their rookie netminder.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Drouin was finally back in the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup after missing the previous six games with the injury he sustained after taking a puck in the face two weeks ago. Just as he had earlier in the season, he slotted in next to Christian Dvorak on the second line, with Josh Anderson finalizing a, hopefully, dynamic trio.

Cayden Primeau got the nod in net from Dominique Ducharme, just days after being brought up from Laval. With Jake Allen confirmed out with a concussion, this marked a golden opportunity for Primeau to demonstrate whether he has blossomed into a viable NHL starter during the last six months.

Primeau’s latest taste of NHL action before Tuesday was May 12 against Edmonton. That night, he conceded four goals on the 22 shots he faced.

The game started off in an undulating fashion, with both teams exchanging half-chances. Thankfully, Primeau didn’t look jittery at all being thrust into action. Instead, he calmly kept his crease clean, even when sharp shooters like Artemiy Panarin and Mika Zibanejad whistled by him.

Tweny-two-million-dollar man Barclay Goodrow was the first player to get sent into the box of shame on the evening, for an unnecessary cross-check on former teammate and fellow Cup-winner David Savard. Montreal did not care for a power play, however, and immediately evened out the personnel when Chris Wideman got caught for an, albeit minor, interference mid-ice.

With four minutes left to play, Kaapo Kakko found the net for the second game in a row. After a few minutes of deteriorating defensive play from the Canadiens’ side, you sort of got the feeling that a New York Rangers goal was in the air. That said, leaving both Kakko and reigning Norris Trophy-winner Adam Fox alone in the crease to pick up a rebound is just asking for trouble.

Primeau may have been out of his net and unable to stop what turned into the only goal of the period, but he should in no way be harassed for his first 20 minutes of NHL action this season. On the contrary, Primeau was one of very few bright spots in an opening period which saw New York increasingly dominate the longer time wore on.

A quick comeback was in order for Montreal in the second, as Dvorak finished a play set up by Brendan Gallagher near the net. It was a good finish from the Arizona acquistion to squeeze the puck past Igor Shesterkin through very little space, but the utmost kudos for this goal must be credited to Gallagher. It looked like he had lost possession falling down behind the net, but he still managed to not only keep the puck, but deliver a no-look pass to an open teammate in the crease.

If Michael Pezzetta has taught us anything in the last few weeks, it’s that he’s fearless as few others. Right after the game-tying goal, he decided to cross fists with the league’s number-one schoolyard bully, Ryan Reaves. The knuckle fight ended in a loss on points, but you have to admire the fighting spirit the rookie is showing.

Late in the period, Primeau made his best play of the night when he and his glove robbed Ryan Strome from close range. It was a terrific save and a sign that Primeau looks more ready for the big league than he did in previous attempts.

Montreal continued to shoot themselves in the foot and simultaneously be Primeau’s worst adversary. Suzuki held the puck in front of his goalie way too long and with a destructive result. Julien Gauthier stole it, and whacked it into the Habs’ net.

Luckily, Montreal decided to fight right back, as Josh Anderson replied after a Dvorak rebound just 22 seconds later. The Montreal Canadiens are getting quite a collective of players with four goals scored this season. Suddenly we were right back where we started the period.

Close, but no cigar. Montreal didn’t come any closer, even though there were chances to tie the contest up during the third. Instead, the game ended with frustration on both sides. As the Habs were trying to get set up at six-on-five with Primeau out, Gallagher decided to punch Goodrow in the face on a faceoff, and drop the gloves afterward. Referees and teammates intervened that time to break the trouble-makers apart. As the buzzer rang, Jacob Trouba decided to give Josh Anderson a few jabs as well, with Anderson answering the call immediately to delay the end of the road trip a moment.

After a meagre one point on a three-game road streak, Montreal will now return to the Bell Centre. On Thursday, they will face the Pittsburgh Penguins, in what could possibly mark the very first game for the guests under new ownership.