The last 30 minutes of this game certainly made up for the last 30 minutes of game one. After a decent but wholeheartedly uninspiring effort in Game 1, and staring a 2-0 deficit going to Broadway in the face, the Montreal Canadiens finally found a second gear to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and take the series back to New York tied at one.
Montreal jumped out with high energy levels in the first period, throwing 25 shots at Henrik Lundqvist (only 9 got through). The Rangers fought back in the second and ended the period with a one goal lead. Montreal, once down, struggled to build momentum against a tenacious Ranger neutral zone trap.
Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Below, we have the shot pressure chart for Game 2 up until Shea Weber’s crossbar at 6:07. The black line is the shot pressure chart for Game 1 up until the same time point. Aside from the Ranger second period push back in Game 2 not being as visceral as the one in Game 1, both games were playing out similarly, and the Habs were looking at two identical outcomes.
Claude Julien Pulled the Trigger
Midway through the second period, with the Habs still up 2-1, Julien swapped Alex Galchenyuk and Dwight King, reuniting the Galchenyuk-Andrew Shaw-Artturi Lehkonen line. After Mats Zuccarello gave the Rangers the lead, Julien tightened his bench, with the fourth line seeing significantly reduced ice time.
3rd Period Even Strength Ice Time
|Player||Game 1||Player||Game 2|
|Player||Game 1||Player||Game 2|
* does not include TOI when not on fourth line.
Julien made a conscious effort to play his offensive weapons in Game 2, and it shows in the Habs' shot output in the last 15 minutes. Montreal generated much more sustained pressure to finish the third period compared to Game 1 (black line), and eventually broke through with Carey Price on the bench. The revamped top 9 dominated overtime as well, out-Corsing the Rangers 21-16 and outchancing them 12-3 (4-0 high danger).
Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekanec, and Paul Byron were Dominant
The stars of the night were undoubtedly the Gallagher-Plekanec-Byron line, who came out of the gate on fire and sustained that high level throughout regulation and overtime, finishing with a +23/-11 Corsi line. The trio utterly trounced the Rangers' top line of Chris Kreider (average line: +20/-8), Derek Stepan (+23/-10), and Mats Zuccarello (+22/-8), as well as the top defense pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi (+16/-5).
Alex Galchenyuk's final Corsi line of +17/-13 doesn't look impressive by comparison, but it has to be noted that Galchenyuk was +10/-3 with Shaw and +12/-4 with Lehkonen. The trio was especially effective against the Rangers' third line of Michael Grabner, Kevin Hayes, and J.T. Miller, posting a +5/-1 line after Galchenyuk was added, compared to +3/-5 prior.
The Fourth Line is Still a Liability
Despite all the positives, there's still one glaring issue with the Montreal Canadiens at the moment. The fourth line, whether Galchenyuk-Steve Ott-Andreas Martinsen or King-Ott-Martinsen, was subpar. Galchenyuk-Ott-Martinsen posted a line of +1/-5, mainly against Tanner Glass-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast. King-Ott-Martinsen faired a little better, posting a line of +5/-6. The latter combination was particularly vulnerable after icing the puck, as the Ranger top line peppered them with shots in a short span of time.
In overtime, Ott and King posted lines of +5/-4, while Martinsen was +2/-4.
The rest of the team was +16/-12 (+18/-12 for Martinsen).
A big step forward
It took a game and a half, but the Montreal Canadiens appear to have finally taken shape. More importantly, the team has gone from a single offensive line in Game 1 to three lines all capable of driving possession, generating chances, and scoring goals. This domination is perhaps best illustrated when looking at zone starts - every line could be classified as an exploitation line because there simply weren’t enough defensive zone faceoffs.
This newfound depth will be critical going forward as the scene shifts to New York, where Alain Vigneault will likely seek to get his top line away from Plekanec and company. Without the benefit of last change, we’ll also have to see if Claude Julien makes further adjustments to his oft-victimized fourth line.