How to watch
Start time: 9:00 PM EDT / 6:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet
In the Canadiens region: RDS (French)
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
Two nights after collapsing in on their own net in the third period and being unable to hold Connor McDavid at bay, the Canadiens took a different approach with a lead in the final frame on Wednesday. Instead of clinging to a one-goal lead and urging the clock to expire, they got out to a three-goal edge in the final 20 minutes. Once again McDavid proved how difficult it is to contain him, and he threatened to get his team another two points single-handedly, but within a goal was the closest he was about to drag the club this time.
In the two-game set in Edmonton, the Canadiens controlled the play for about 100 of the 120 minutes played, and earned the split that was about the best a team should expect versus a superstar-laden opponent with the last change to dictate matchups. It was all the Habs needed to do to stay on track for a post-season spot, and now they carry a bit of momentum into Calgary after two mostly strong showings.
Critically, the offence came alive on Wednesday night as the players put more focus on getting to the front of the net, which hadn’t been the case in their recent run of poor results. It was a physical game versus an opponent not used to facing that type of resistance, and the four goals will serve as positive reinforcement to keep up that same level versus the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.
Tale of the Tape
|55.0% (2nd)||Corsi-for pct.||52.3% (7th)|
|2.93 (13th)||Goals per game||2.60 (24th)|
|2.80 (14th)||Goals against per game||2.93 (17th)|
|19.0% (21st)||PP%||19.4% (20th)|
|77.8% (22nd)||PK%||80.7% (11th)|
When the Canadiens and Flames last met, Montreal left them six points behind in the standings while having three more games to play. Now the difference in match count is just one, though Montreal’s lead has grown to eight points. They could lose all three games in this series and stay ahead, but that would be far from the recommended result.
Presented with a chance to gain some ground, the Flames once again fell to the Ottawa Senators in their only game of the past six days. That’s now four losses in a row to the team with the fewest points in the division, though the Canadiens are in no position to mock them for that record, being just .500 against the Sens themselves. At this stage, Ottawa is mostly doing Montreal favours, and they added to the list by snatching another two points from the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. It was the first of four consecutive games between those two teams, and a chance for the Senators to replicate what Montreal did to Vancouver’s playoff hopes earlier in the year.
Wednesday’s physical battle between Montreal and Edmonton was what many expected from the games between the Flames and Habs all season long, but that hasn’t often been the case. Calgary has used strong four-line depth to cycle the puck well, and that has earned them a 4-2 edge through six games, making Montreal one of just two teams they have a winning record against in what has been a surprisingly poor season for the team. With their last chance to put themselves back in the post-season conversation, we’ll surely see everything the Flames can muster in tonight’s game, and the good news is that Montreal has already elevated to that level of intensity — so long as they carry it over from the previous game.
Since the only changes Dominique Ducharme can make are among his eight options on defence, we’ll probably see the same lineup that earned the win in Edmonton, so Jon Merrill will get a chance to follow up his strong debut. His pairing with Alexander Romanov was the best of the night, not surprising when we saw Merrill had some of the same instincts to jump up in the play that we’ve seen from his rookie partner in the past couple of weeks. Montreal outshot the opposition 8-1 while Merrill was on the ice, and the McDavid line was his most common foe on the night. He proved there’s more to him than just a shutdown, first-pass style, and that’s encouraging for both the players and the team going forward. Darryl Sutter probably expects to take advantage of that pairing tonight, and he could be setting up his best players for the same rude awakening Edmonton’s got two nights ago.