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Canadiens vs. Red Wings game recap: The Pezzetta Effect

Montreal wins at home in the young forward’s NHL debut.

Detroit Red Wings v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

After a demoralizing road trip to Seattle and California, the Montreal Canadiens returned home to face their former poltergeist team, the Detroit Red Wings, for the second time this season.

This game would be the first since management’s decision to demote Cole Caufield for a stint in Laval, and replace him with Cinderella-story Michael Pezzetta; a man I personally ranked second-to-last on this year’s Top 25 Under 25, thinking that he would never even come close to an NHL game. There are times when I’m happy to be wrong, and this is one of those times.

With both Pezzetta and Sami Niku in the lineup for Tuesday, Montreal could very well have been sporting the best flow in the league. When you’re not winning many games, you’ll have to be good at other things. Important to remember, though, is that, “With great hair, comes great responsibility.”

Pezzetta started on the fourth line, flanking Jake Evans and having his Laval buddy and another call-up, Alex Belzile, playing on the other wing.

Dominique Ducharme had thrown his lines in the blender the morning before the game, with the goal of finally creating a delicious recipe of some sort. Jonathan Drouin got to see action at centre, with Cédric Paquette and Mathieu Perreault missing due to a suspension and an injury, respectively.

Montreal went flying onto the ice in the first period, immediately setting up shop in the Red Wings’ zone. Two minutes had gone by when they opened the scoring. Tyler Toffoli set up his centre, Suzuki, for a shot in the slot. Alex Nedeljkovic saved the first attempt, but left a rebound, which Suzuki hit home out of mid-air; great hand-eye coordination from the newly extended youngster who finally got his long-awaited first goal of the year.

The Canadiens continued to rally and play the kind of fluid attack we know they are capable of, but which has been sorely lacking for the majority of the games this autumn. Evans could (and perhaps should?) have scored for the second game in a row, forcing Nedeljkovic to a great pad save.

Minutes later, Josh Anderson did what a powerhorse does best, furiously skating in from the left side to blast the puck past the Detroit netminder and double the lead. A wonderful Suzuki-pass via the boards created this scoring chance out of nothing.

The only fly in the ointment during this period was Drouin getting hit in the face by a puck, leading him to a way too early exit from the game and a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, he was cleared quickly and back with the club by the end of the game.

Not even being without their leading scorer seemed to affect a north-south attacking team, which continued to agitate Detroit’s defence.

Christian Dvorak could very well have got his second goal as a Hab early on in the second, as he pounced on an ill-handled rebound off Nedeljkovic on a shot from Artturi Lehkonen. But what Nedeljkovic lacked in general puck-control on the evening he made up for with his right pad.

Two nights earlier, in Anaheim, Montreal registered only 18 shots on goal. This night, they broke the 20 mark during the first few minutes of the second period. More importantly, they weren’t just point shots without an idea. The Canadiens did well to get in close on goal and combine offensively to create quality scoring opportunities.

The referees suddenly decided to get involved, after spending the first half of the game snoozing in a corner somewhere. They swiftly handed out not one, but two minors to players from the home team. This gave Detroit’s power play full of Gen Z players a chance to play five-on-three for 30 seconds, without anything to show for it. Yes, you read that correctly. This was a night where even Montreal’s penalty kill was up to par.

Late in the period, Brendan Gallagher did what he so often does and threw himself wholeheartedly at a puck loose in the crease. Unfortunately, this time he hurt himself worse than usual and had to exit to the locker room for the remainder of the period. This effectively meant that Ducharme and his coaching team was down to 10 available forwards. It almost felt like watching an Agatha Christie story unfold itself in real time, with the Montreal forwards disappearing mysteriously one by one....

Thankfully, Gallagher was back out on the ice for the start of the third period, looking feisty as ever.

Montreal’s forecheck looked much better in this game, forcing Detroit into quick decisions before they gained control of the puck. This is something that has clearly been missing for most of the games this season, and certainly one of the reasons why the team has looked so lacklustre. Last night, the whole team was buzzing like bees on the Red Wings’ attackers as soon as they tried to create anything of significance. Could it really be, that all this team needed was an infusion of grit from the talent factory in Laval?

The Canadiens finished the game north of 40 shots for the first time this year and crowned their victory with a third goal in the empty net with two minutes left to play. The formerly injured Brendan Gallagher got his reward for being a true warrior by doubling his goal tally for the year.

Jake Allen contributed in net by saving 22 shots and posting his second shutout as a Canadien. This 3-0 win was, start to finish, an all around dominant effort by Montreal. Let us hope for more nights like this in the near future.

Next on the menu will be the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.