After having dropped their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before due mostly to a sluggish effort, the Montreal Canadiens were back in action Thursday night at the Bell Centre against Connor McDavid & the Edmonton Oilers. Though the game was delayed an hour due to Jesse Puljujarvi being put on the NHL’s COVID protocol, the two teams played on. Jake Allen was in goal for the Canadiens and Corey Perry was placed on the taxi squad in favour of Paul Byron.
The Canadiens had the chance to set the tone for the night, take control, and open the scoring less than three minutes into the game, but Mike Smith rose to the challenge. Jonathan Drouin sprung Nick Suzuki on a breakaway with a nice stretch pass, but Suzuki’s wrister went off of Smith’s glove and fell close enough to the Edmonton netminder for him to get his hands on the rebound faster than Suzuki could get his stick on it.
The Oilers nearly got on the board themselves a minute later during a two-on-one, but Allen, who made 28 saves in the Canadiens’ loss, followed the play perfectly and got his pad on the puck to keep the game tied at zero.
McDavid nearly put his team on the board in the first as well as he almost pulled off an impressive end-to-end goal. He took the puck from behind his own net, and with his speed and hands got by all five Canadiens skaters before trying to slip the puck between Allen’s legs. The netminder managed to squeeze his pads shut at the last second to deny a goal.
However, Edmonton did get on the board first by period’s end thanks to a well-placed wrist shot from Jujhar Khaira. A smooth pass off the boards from Tyler Ennis went perfectly onto Josh Archibald’s stick, who waited until there was clear path to Khaira, allowing him to score his second of the season.
Leon Draisaitl nearly doubled Edmonton’s lead shortly after Khaira’s goal as well but rang the puck off the post instead. The first period ended with the Oilers having put 11 shots on Allen and with Montreal having given up eight turnovers.
A couple of unfortunate bounces gave the Oilers their second of the night just 1:27 into the second period. Allen made a pad save on a Darnell Nurse wrist shot, though the rebound trickled behind him. Shea Weber, in an attempt to clear the puck from the crease, whacked the puck right onto Phillip Danault’s skate, sending it back toward the net. In a desperate attempt to clear the puck once more, Weber accidentally hit it into his own net.
The bad luck continued for the Canadiens in the second frame as Byron took a Joel Edmundson slapshot to the side of the head, knocking him down and sending him to the dressing room for a brief period of time before returning to the Canadiens’ bench.
Joel Edmundson drills Paul Byron right in the ear with a slap shot, Byron immediately went to the room. pic.twitter.com/RpvqF7XJhC— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) February 12, 2021
Allen was forced to come up big in the second period to prevent the Oilers from heading into the third with a 3-0 lead as well, with Edmonton’s most dangerous scoring chances coming on their first power play of the game. Right after Ben Chiarot’s tripping penalty expired, another ping of the post rang through the arena announcing that the score would stay locked at 2-0 after 40 minutes of play.
Less than five minutes into the third period, the Canadiens had already given the Oilers two more power play chances to put the game away. Danault was called for obstruction 55 seconds in and a scrum between Josh Anderson and William Lagesson resulted in another power play for Edmonton 4:10 into the final frame, on which they netted their third and final goal of the night. Tyson Barrie slapped his third of the season top corner on Allen’s blocker side, with the assists going to Draisaitl and McDavid.
The Canadiens, who sent 38 shots on Smith during the game, had one power play opportunity of their own a little over halfway into the third but were unable to generate any goals, locking in the final score of 3-0.
The Canadiens will have to find some offence in time to play the Leafs again on Saturday night or they risk dropping their third game in a row. In a shortened season with only seven teams in the North Division, every point matters, and Montreal needs to get out of their slump soon.