With a massive 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday in the rearview mirror, the Montreal Canadiens looked to close out a miniseries with another big win. Sitting just three points behind the Jets for second place, a regulation win would help make up for a rough pair of games against Calgary.
With Ben Chiarot out, Dominique Ducharme kept his defence from the last game intact, meaning it was another chance for the duo of Brett Kulak and Jeff Petry to shine. It was also a chance for the others in the lineup to bounce back after a shaky debut. The forward lines also remained the same, while Carey Price got the start after another stellar performance on Monday.
It looked like it might be a quick start for Montreal as Josh Anderson broke in on Connor Hellebuyck, but his shot went wide and off the end boards. At the other end of the ice it was a Shea Weber mishandle that ended up on Blake Wheeler’s stick, and unlike Anderson, the Jets captain wired his shot by Price for an early lead.
To make matters worse, a too many men on the ice call put Montreal short-handed, but not before allowing a dangerous rush to Nate Thompson, of all people. The penalty-killers did their job with relatively little issue, allowing just two shots, and immediately turning Corey Perry’s exit from the box into a scoring opportunity. That post-kill shift ended up drawing a penalty in the Habs favour.
Alex Burrows’s power play lost some of its lustre and failed to generate anything dangerous against Hellebuyck. With the play back at even strength, it was the Canadiens controlling the flow of play in the offensive zone, with Jonathan Drouin running the show. Then an extremely poor turnover by Brendan Gallagher set off a chain reaction of bad coverage, including Xavier Ouellet falling on Carey Price, whice allowed Kyle Connor to tap in a rebound from Nikolaj Ehlers’s shot.
A smart play by Tyler Toffoli to step right in front of a Jets player drew a penalty, and while the Canadiens did not capitalize before the end of the period, they started the second with an abbreviated man advantage.
The Habs couldn’t score in that brief amount of time, but they still found the back of the net early in the second period. Tomas Tatar worked the puck around the boards to Brendan Gallagher, who in turn chipped it up to Phillip Danault in the neutral zone. Danault and Tatar broke in on an odd-man rush against Tucker Poolman, and Danault opted to keep the puck, snapping a shot by the blocker of Hellebuyck to get the Habs on the scoreboard.
The game intensified from that point on, with more attacking speed, but despite the faster pace the goals were at a premium. Montreal had a massive opportunity to find their game-tying goal when Winnipeg iced the puck three times in a row, however their missed chances came back to bite them.
A clearing pass by Jeff Petry landed in the skates of Gallagher, then back into the zone on the stick of Kyle Connor. He fed a pass to Pierre-Luc Dubois, whose shot kicked right out to Connor, and he easily fired it past Carey Price to restore the two-goal Jets lead.
Montreal was 1-6 when trailing after two periods, and needed a massive third period to avoid adding to that loss column in Winnipeg.
The opening minutes of the third were all Montreal, as the Canadiens hounded the Jets defenders relentlessly, but goals didn’t come easily. Then it was Gallagher leading the literal charge to find a second marker. Danault got in a battle off the faceoff, and Gallagher swiped the loose puck away from the dot. He left Derek Forbort behind, and had a step on Neal Pionk as he closed in on Hellebuyck. A neat little shot found the five-hole as Gallagher flew by the net, and cut the Jets’ lead down to one with 14 minutes left to play.
After Price was tested a handful of times in his own zone, the Canadiens stormed back down the ice to collect a trio of chances. Paul Byron missed on an open chance, then it was Brett Kulak being denied, and finally Joel Armia saw his shot from the slot gloved by Hellebuyck.
The tying goal did finally come at the proverbial 11th hour. Toffoli battled hard deep in the offensive zone, wedging the puck over to Drouin. It was Drouin who kicked it to the net-front area for Perry, who had joined the play as the extra skater moments before. Perry found Toffoli wide open at the side of the net, and Hellebuyck had no chance to stop Montreal’s top goal-scorer from burying his 18th of the season and forcing overtime.
The Canadiens had a prime chance with the game at three-on-three. A pass was directed on net by a charging Petry, but Hellebuyck turned it aside. The Habs defender tried to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but the Jets wrested it away, starting a three-on-one rush the other way. Nikolaj Ehlers looked off Price and wired his shot by the Habs’ netminder, steal the second point away for the Jets in a 4-3 win.
Next up is a pair of games that fit right into the Habs’ wheelhouse as they face the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and Saturday night, the final two games of the most favourable matchup this season, and a chance to make up some of these lost overtime points.