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Canadiens vs. Senators game recap: A less-than-complete effort

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The Canadiens stray from their game plan and drop a close game to the Senators.

Ottawa Senators v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Coming off a dominating performance against the Vancouver Canucks, the Montreal Canadiens took on the league-worst Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Donning reverse retro jerseys, the home team looked impressive in the opening period of the game, pressuring the Senators early and often. The Tomas Tatar-Phillip Danault-Brendan Gallagher line looked particularly dangerous, creating a lot of opportunities in the offensive zone.

The trio’s persistence would finally pay off just over halfway through the first, when Gallagher banged the rebound from a Tatar shot past an oblivious Matt Murray. Gallagher’s fifth goal of the season gave Montreal the early lead.

Despite the Canadiens’ aggressive start to the game, the Senators found new life in the final minute of the period. Thomas Chabot converted on a pass from Tim Stützle to tie the game at one.

Not long afterward, an ill-timed holding penalty called against Jeff Petry — his first infraction of the season — put Ottawa on the power play. Stützle then scored a goal of his own on the ensuing man advantage to give his team a 2-1 lead heading into the second period.

Though both teams traded shots off the post early in the second, there was a definite lack of urgency on the Canadiens’ part. With the exception of the Tatar-Danault-Gallagher line, there was a marked difference in Montreal’s playstyle. The pace of game ground to a halt, with the Canadiens seemingly hesitant to rely on their speed and puck-handling abilities. It was this timid approach that allowed the Senators to stay in the game.

Just over eight minutes into the second period, an unlucky Connor Brown deflection beat Carey Price to give the Senators a comfortable two-goal lead. Montreal would get a chance to respond, when Nick Paul retaliated against Alexander Romanov for the rookie’s clean hit on Thomas Chabot. But the Canadiens failed to generate any sort of momentum on the ensuing power play.

Even with a brief five-on-three opportunity, when Brown was sent off for closing his hand on the puck and tossing it down the ice, the home team looked disorganized on the man advantage and squandered the opportunity to get back on the scoreboard.

Throughout the game, a common theme emerged. The Canadiens strayed from their usual style of play and seemed to mimic the Senators’ instead. The team racked up an uncharacteristic amount of offside calls and looked lethargic on the ice.

Corey Perry attempted to motivate his squad in the third period by dropping his gloves with Erik Gudbranson, to little effect. The Canadiens also had to contend with potential injury scares, as Anderson, Drouin and Perry all made trips to the locker room before eventually returning to the bench.

With just over 10 minutes remaining in the third period, Montreal caught a second wind. Artem Zub was sent off for tripping Anderson, putting the Canadiens on their second power play of the night. Though the Senators successfully killed it off, their penalty woes continued. Seconds after the Zub penalty expired, Montreal found itself back on the power play when Tkachuk was called for tripping Ben Chiarot. The Canadiens’ power-play units got to work, with Nick Suzuki in particular generating a few scoring chances. Jeff Petry got the best opportunity, winding up on a shot that beat Murray, but couldn’t beat the goal post.

Despite the lack of a goal, the Canadiens finally seemed to play somewhat like themselves again. The team outshot the Senators 18-5 in the final frame, trapping the visitors in their own end for the most part.

A double-minor called against Chiarot for high-sticking Tkachuk threatened to stunt the Canadiens’ building pressure, forcing Montreal to end the night down a man. But Josh Anderson sniped a Danault faceoff win on the penalty kill, beating Murray cleanly to make it a one-goal game with less than two minutes left in the period. Anderson’s short handed marker was his seventh goal of the season, and also the seventh goal scored while the Habs were down a man.

Whatever momentum the Canadiens gained was quickly undone when a questionable boarding call went against Tatar in the last 30 seconds of the frame. Though Ottawa head coach D.J. Smith called a late timeout, ostensibly to teach his squad how to defend in a five-on-three situation, Montreal couldn’t score the all important tying goal. The result of a less-than-stellar effort against the Senators was a loss by a score of 3-2.

The Habs will look to bounce back and get their revenge against Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, before enjoying a three-day break.