After losing in regulation for the first time two nights prior, the Montreal Canadiens got a chance to get back in the first of a back-to-back set at home against the Vancouver Canucks. The Habs have had the Canucks’ number in this young season, taking five of a possible six points on their trip to Vancouver in January.
But it’s a new month, and the Canucks came into the game on a four-game winning streak. Unfortunately for them, that did not matter whatsoever. Montreal took it to them early, and didn’t take their foot off the gas until the game was in hand.
It started at precisely the one minute mark of the first, as the line of Jonathan Drouin, Nick Suzuki, and Josh Anderson continued their excellent start to the year. Anderson found Suzuki right outside the crease, and just like that it was 1-0 for the home team.
Shortly thereafter, the Canucks would get the first power play of the game with Jesperi Kotkaniemi being sent off for tripping. But Artturi Lehkonen put on an absurd individual effort on the kill, stealing the puck and dangling Braden Holtby to make it 2-0.
But as was the case for the games in Vancouver, this one had to have it’s share of scoring on both sides. A bad neutral zone giveaway by Alexander Romanov led to a break for Adam Gaudette, and he beat Carey Price with a shot that the Canadiens goaltender probably stops 99 times out of 100. Nonetheless, it was 2-1 with less than half the period played.
The fourth line was buzzing for the Habs, and they’d get in on the scoring late in the frame. A solid forecheck from Lehkonen and Paul Byron led to Jeff Petry getting the puck at the blue line. Petry was given far too much space to walk in, and he ripped one bar-down to make it 3-1 for his team.
It took a little longer in the second period for a goal to happen, but it would be the Canadiens doing the scoring once again. Just under eight minutes into the frame, Brendan Gallagher got loose alone on Holtby, and put a gorgeous move together to make it 4-1.
And then it was Corey Perry’s turn to show some moves off. He absolutely undressed Quinn Hughes before finding none other than Jeff Petry for the latter’s second of the night. 5-1 and it seemed the rout was on.
If it seemed like the rout was on, it’s because it absolutely was. The Habs would get a power play later in the period, and some great puck movement would eventually allow Tyler Toffoli to get his seventh goal of the season off a great feed from Shea Weber.
The third period was largely uneventful, with Montreal dominating the scoring chance department. It seemed like only a matter of time before they’d bet a seventh goal to really put things out of reach. Until of course Jay Beagle managed to get one to bring the score to 6-2, igniting hope for a miracle.
But no such miracle would come, as that was all the scoring to be had for the night. The Canadiens left their barn earning two points in the most convincing manner, and will get a chance to do it again tonight.
- The Drouin-Suzuki-Anderson line is everything we thought it could be and more. If the opposition takes their eyes off one of them for a second or two, they can cause major problems. They were an absurd 83.33% in terms of shot attempts-for at even strength, and were virtually unstoppable. The Phillip Danault line may be the de facto first trio, but it seems rather clear they’ve been usurped as the top scoring line on this team.
- Joel Edmundson had what I felt was his best game as a Canadien. Similar to Ben Chiarot, it seems like he’s getting better the more time he gets within the team’s system. How about 64.29% Corsi-for last night at even strength? Not bad at all, and we have to keep in mind that tonight will only be his 10th game with the team. The best could be yet to come.
- This might be the most consistently dangerous penalty kill I’ve ever seen. Claude Julien talked about wanting to be more aggressive with that unit before the season, and they’ve clearly bought into that mentality. Of course, staying out of the box is ideal with how good they are at five-on-five, but it is sure something to watch them turn opposing power plays into goals of their own.
- Speaking of the penalty kill, Artturi Lehkonen has taken to his fourth line role like an absolute soldier. He was putting a hellacious pace on the Canucks last night, and the shorthanded goal he scored was the result of a good read coupled with sheer will to take the puck the other way. He is probably a prime candidate on this roster that could be taken by Seattle at the expansion draft, but for now he’s a huge luxury in the Habs’ bottom six.
- Jeff Petry is an early Norris Trophy candidate, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down in the slightest. Last night was a testament to what he can do offensively, as he got one from walking in from the blue line, and another with a beautiful jump into the rush. If he keeps putting up points at the rate he currently is, he’ll be a finalist, and it might be tough for anyone to beat him out for that award.
We’ll be right back at it later tonight folks. Same teams, possibly different goalies, but the Tricolore is surely hoping for a similar result.