Canadiens vs. Lightning game recap: Habs power through fatigue to keep their streaks alive
It wasn’t easy, but a late comeback by the usual suspects helped the Habs overcome their closest division rival.
The Montreal Canadiens returned home after a successful one-game excursion to Brooklyn, facing their third game in four nights with the Tampa Bay Lightning in town.
Understandably, the Habs came out a bit flat, with little pace to their game. Luckily for them, the Lightning were prepared to play a trapping style, and weren’t able to capitalize on a lethargic opponent.
The result of that matchup was a stalemate between the two clubs. If you’re reading this recap because you didn’t catch the game, you’re lucky to have missed those 20 minutes of play.
You did miss seeing Ben Bishop race out of his crease and freeze the puck near the top of the circle before Andrew Shaw could get to it for a chance, and then throw it out of the zone for a Lightning rush the other way. Carey Price was able to thwart the good scoring opportunity that resulted, and the teams went to their respective dressing rooms to refresh and reset for the second period.
In the intermission, the Lightning coaches seemed to alter their tactics from playing a conservative road game to a more attacking style to take advantage of the sleepy state of their opponent.
Cedric Paquette took the aggression a little too far, getting a slash in on Price after the goaltender secured a shot. Nathan Beaulieu followed him to the corner to make his feelings about the matter known, and when Paquette decided to offer his rebuttal, the gloves came off, and Beaulieu got his message across.
After failing to register a shot on goal in the first 12-plus minutes of the game while committed to the trap, and having just four total reach Carey Price in the opening frame, the visitors responded with 13 shots in the middle period.
One of those shots ended up getting behind Price, as Victor Hedman fired a slap-pass right onto the stick of Alex Killorn, and around the Habs netminder who was covering the point shot.
That late-period tally threatened to be the only goal of the contest, but Brendan Gallagher wasn’t about to let the win streak come to an end just yet. His drive to the net around the five-minute mark of the third compelled Nikita Nesterov to grab him by the neck and throw him away from Bishop. The wrestling manoeuvre riled up what had been a silent Bell Centre crowd to that point, but more importantly sent the Habs to the power play.
Since they played the shift that resulted in the penalty call, Gallagher’s line had to sit and watch the Desharnais unit for the first half, but made their mark in the second minute. Jeff Petry sent the puck to Andrei Markov along the left boards, and The General whipped an accurate pass across the width of the offensive zone to a waiting Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk launched one his now-famous one-timers, and tied the game at one goal apiece.
Four minutes later, another great shift from Shaw allowed the Habs to get some offensive-zone pressure, with his last touch going to Max Pacioretty, who relayed it along to Greg Pateryn. Pateryn returned it to the captain, who turned and wristed one through Shaw’s screen in front to give the Habs their first advantage.
With a one-goal lead and less than 10 monutes remaining, the Canadiens hung on for dear life as the Lightning threw everything they had toward the net, but Price was able to turn everything else he faced aside.
Bishop was pulled in a last-ditch effort to knot things up, and Torrey Mitchell potted his fourth goal of the season into the empty cage to give his team a 3-1 win. It extended the Habs’ season-opening points streak to eight games, their win streak to six, and a run of victories over the Lightning that now spans more than an entire season.
- Shaw has been much better for the Habs in recent games than his first few contests — with a pre-season suspension and pep-talk necessitating slew-foot — appeared to suggest. He’s been great at carrying the puck to the middle in the opponent’s end and getting some good scoring chances. He stills ranks at the bottom of the list for quality opportunities (at just 5.43 scoring chances per 60 minutes) after his unimpressive start to the season, but with his recent play, he seems to be approaching the level of competition he is capable of.
- The Canadiens have gotten it done in games where it looked like their first regulation loss was at hand. A frustrating game in New York the previous night when they bombarded Thomas Greiss with shots but had a hard time beating him, and last night’s slow start and one-goal deficit that carried into the third, the Habs have been able get some timely goals to keep their streak alive.
- Montreal is getting production from everywhere, and currently sit as one of the best offensive teams in the league. They’re also the best in preventing goals, and their MVP goaltender has only played half of the games to date. Their multi-goal victories probably won’t last, but with an average scoring rate of 3.63 goals per game, while also allowing well under two per contest, there’s a lot of room for regression while still allowing them to hold a positive average goal differential./
That league-leading defensive game will get a good test in their next outing, hosting Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and the rest of a rejuvenated Toronto Maple Leafs squad on Saturday night.