With a stinging loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs still fresh in their memories, the Montreal Canadiens looked to get back on track against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday evening. The Senators had proven to be a frustrating foe in their two-game series earlier this season as Montreal managed only a narrow series split. Claude Julien had to get his team back on track.
Jake Allen got the nod as expected, and at the other end of the ice it was Matt Murray getting the start for Ottawa. On the offensive side of the puck the Canadiens continued their rotation of bottom-six forwards, sliding Corey Perry into the lineup and scratching Artturi Lehkonen.
Montreal rocketed out to start the game, opening the scoring in under 80 seconds thanks to a fantastic shift by the first line. Josh Anderson battled for a loose puck before turning and speeding off toward the Senators’ zone. Anderson picked out a trailing Nick Suzuki, who wired his fourth goal of the year over the glove of Murray to give the Habs an early lead.
Montreal then threatened their own lead when Paul Byron was called for high-sticking against former Canadien Mikey Reilly. However, Ottawa wasn’t quite Toronto, and Montreal fought off the man advantage.
Following the power play, the Sens had grown back into the game. Ottawa then was rewarded with a freak accident of a goal when Drake Batherson toe-dragged the puck around a sprawling Alexander Romanov, and fired a shot that looked like it was going to go well over Jake Allen’s net. Allen caught a bit of the puck and it slowly dropped behind him as he turned to try to swat it away, tying the game at one goal each before the halfway point of the period.
The teams then traded power plays, and while Montreal didn’t threaten the Senators too much, the Ottawa man advantage put a mountain of pressure on the Canadiens. Some strong saves from Allen and a few blocked shot from Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot helped kill the second Ottawa power play. As the period ticked away toward intermission, it was Ottawa in control, leaving Montreal searching for answers in the second period.
Montreal’s second-period start was much better, as they found zone time to set up their chances, but still failed to challenge Murray in any meaningful way. In fact, their best chance came when Weber’s shot hit off a Senator’s skate and trickled just wide off the net. At the other end of the ice, Phillip Danault and Nick Paul engaged in a mutual hug, yet it was Danault who was given the only roughing penalty.
Again the Senators’ pace and puck movement left the static Canadiens penalty kill heavily reliant on Allen. Thanks to Batherson mishandling a pass and Allen coming up big when called upon, Montreal was able to escape unscathed once again.
As the period entered its final moments, Derek Stepan threw a hit into Nick Suzuki’s numbers the drove him into the boards. Jeff Petry stepped in to push Stepan away, somehow earning a cross-checking penalty to offset the boarding minor.
The period ended on a sour note as Jonathan Drouin left down the tunnel after Reilly gave him a hard shove into the glass. Drouin came up in obvious discomfort, heading right to the room as the second period came to an end, and did not return in the third.
All that momentum went for nothing early in the third period as the Senators took the lead on another fluke deflection goal. Nikita Zaitsev fired a low shot that bounced off of Josh Norris and Shea Weber, into the air, then plopped down behind Allen for the second time in the game, putting Ottawa ahead.
Brendan Gallagher drew a high-sticking call, giving Montreal a crucial power play with roughly half the period left to play. The Canadiens used that opportunity to allow multiple short-handed rushes on Allen before generating any attack of their own. Gallagher rang his shot off the crossbar as the man advantage came to an end with Montreal still trailing by a goal.
It was an unlikely goal-scorer who got Montreal back into the game: 35-year-old Corey Perry. After a long shift, Petry held off a Senators forecheck, then picked out Perry through the neutral zone all alone. Perry attacked Gudbranson, dangling around the defender and tucking his shot just beyond the stretched pad of Murray to tie the game.
Montreal nearly gave the goal right back as Joel Edmundson got caught out of position, allowing Batherson to break in on Allen uncontested, but the Canadiens’ netminder was up to the task and pushed the game to overtime.
After sleepwalking through most of the regulation, both teams decided to go full send in three-on-three overtime. Montreal held an early advantage, but an Anderson turnover forced Allen into a two-pad stack save on Brady Tkachuk, and then followed it up with a huge glove save to get a stoppage in play.
Things only got worse from there as Alexander Romanov and Kotkaniemi got trapped on the ice for a long shift, and with no gas the Habs forced Allen to defend for his life. A change from Kotkaniemi with the puck in the neutral zone sent Anderson back into the fray, and his errant pass put the puck right on Tkachuk’s stick, and he eventually buried the overtime winner.
If you enjoyed this bit of masochism, the Canadiens have another game against Ottawa on Tuesday night before they move on to play the Winnipeg Jets later in the week.