There was a big possibility for a rebound Saturday afternoon, as the Montreal Canadiens had travelled to the nation’s capital for their first outing in Canadian Tire Centre this season.
Jake Allen got the starting nod in goal, partly because it was his turn to play and partly because he has had the hotter hand during the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
Five minutes into the game, Erik Brannstrom got called for interference and Montreal demonstrated lethal ability on the power play. After establishing themselves in Ottawa’s zone, Jeff Petry got the shooting chance from the point and took advantage of it. This meant that the team got exactly the start it wanted.
Unfortunately, Ottawa would equalize in the exact same manner. A young defenceman went to the booth on an interference call, albeit a dubious one. At first, it looked like Montreal would be able to weather the storm, but with 20 seconds to go of Alexander Romanov’s penalty, Colin White found himself an oasis in front of Allen and had no problem shoving the puck past the veteran goaltender.
Montreal brought its best effort to get into the locker room with a lead, but Matt Murray continued to play the role of the bogeyman. The shots were 19-8 going into the break, but the score remained tied at one apiece.
The guests continued to test Murray early in the second and looked poised to take the lead. It was a start to the game that reminded you of the days of yore, when Montreal lacked goal-scorers and simply couldn’t catch a break in the offensive zone, especially when playing inferior teams.
When the shooting statistics were up to 26-11, the Canadiens decided to invite their opponents to the shooting contest by taking multiple minor penalties during the final half of the period.
This effectively meant that Allen got to prove his worth as Montreal’s backup goalie once again. He made sure that Ottawa couldn’t capitalize on their advantages and kept his team afloat, while the offence became more and more blunt the longer time passed. In the end, Montreal finished the period with zero shots on goal during the final 13 minutes.
Just when it felt like the momentum was all on Ottawa’s side, Petry dished out a cross-ice pass into the offensive zone from his defensive position. Jonathan Drouin got a shot away off the board bounce, but Murray again made the stop. The rebound found its way to Nick Suzuki, who made a solid effort, but yet again Murray was in the way. Third time’s the charm though, as the second rebound went right out to Josh Anderson, who rewarded Montreal with the lead by swiping it past the two-time Stanley Cup champion.
This was Anderson’s eighth goal of the young season, and I for one have definitely stopped giving Marc Bergevin shade for adding on a third-round pick to the deal that brought him to Montreal.
Minutes later, Jake Evans was escorted to the locker room with a possible concussion after receiving a heavy blow to the head by the leaning tower that is Erik Gudbranson. This meant that an already defensively fragile Montreal side – which since the middle of the second period had been heavily outplayed both in shots on goal and in attempts – were down a forward.
Head hit, yes indeed. Evans to the dressing room. pic.twitter.com/hxF9O779Ml— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) February 6, 2021
As Montreal tried to hold on and keep their scant one-goal lead intact, the NHL’s number-one instigator, Brady Tkachuk, drew a holding call on Ben Chiarot. There were four minutes left to play in the game and this felt like a terrific opportunity for Ottawa to tie up the contest. Unfortunately for the home side, Thomas Chabot was handed a similar sentence from the referees in a vastly similar position as Chiarot – behind the own net – which ended the power play in premature fashion.
Playing four-on-four and with a one-minute power play lingering, the Habs could let the clock wind down toward zeroes. Allen got to demonstrate his talents one last time, as a shot from the blue line went through all of the traffic in front of the net before finding its way to his glove.
The game ended with three consecutive defensive-zone faceoffs for Montreal, the last one after Chiarot crosschecked rookie Tim Stützle in the neck with two seconds to play, but Phillip Danault and Suzuki won their draws to keep their team on top.
This concludes a week with a five-game stretch for the Canadiens. They will now go home and train for Wednesday night’s outing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an early battle for division supremacy.