How to watch
You knew when Josh Anderson scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period versus the New York Islanders that the Montreal Canadiens’ first back-to-back wins of the season weren’t going to come as easily as seeing out the final frame of the game. Sure enough, the task was made more difficult when Brock Nelson tied things up with three minutes to go in regulation.
As a result, the Canadiens went to overtime for the second straight game seeking a rare second point. They played aggressively in the extra five minutes, getting some good chances of their own with the tradeoff of several opportunities on Andrew Hammond, who was playing his first game since March 28, 2018. With both goalies surviving the extra time, Cole Caufield erased an early deficit in the shootout with another key goal on his current hot streak, Rem Pitlick showed what he could do with his speed by solving Ilya Sorokin a second time, and Hammond was able to make the final play of the afternoon with a save to secure the victory.
The Canadiens are now feeling good about their game after the improvements in play they’ve seen since Martin St. Louis was brought in have begun showing up in the win column. Now the team would like nothing more than to hold a proper streak of three wins after tonight’s game with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tale of the Tape
|45.7% (28th)||Scoring-chances-for %||55.6% (3rd)|
|2.20 (32nd)||Goals per game||3.58 (4th)|
|3.90 (32nd)||Goals against per game||2.73 (6th)|
|12.8% (31st)||PP%||31.6% (1st)|
|73.8% (30th)||PK%||84.6% (6th)|
It would be the most difficult win of the three if they can pull it off because Toronto is once again among the best teams this regular season. The Maple Leafs may have had the misfortune of going up against the St. Louis Blues a game after the last-place Canadiens defeated them, with the Blues pulling out a 6-3 win on Saturday, but Toronto has consistently been among the top teams all year long.
Since a four-match losing streak from games three to six of the season, the longest string of losses for Toronto has been two. The team has the fourth-best offence and the sixth-best defence, not to mention the league’s best power play.
Auston Matthews and William Nylander have man-advantage point totals nearly high enough to top the Canadiens’ scoring list on their own (22 and 20, respectively). If the Habs can’t do the ideal thing of staying out of the box, they’ll need to execute well on the aggressive penalty kill we’ve seen in the past few games to keep the Maple Leafs’ attackers focused on winning puck battles rather than testing expected starter Samuel Montembeault with shots.
The head coach has been experimenting with Laurent Dauphin and Rem Pitlick in that situation since he lost Tyler Toffoli as an option, and Pitlick in particular was very strong in that area yesterday, using his speed to harry the Islanders’ blue-liners and not allowing a single shot attempt at Hammond in his 1:37 of work.
The goal may be to free up Nick Suzuki, the team’s seventh-most used penalty-killer by ice time this season, for more offensive situations, and given the way his line with Caufield and Anderson has performed since being put together, it’s hard to argue with that approach — as long as the young players continue to develop their defensive games. That top line needs to have a great performance for the Canadiens to end up with the most goals tonight.