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Canadiens vs. Blackhawks game recap: Charlie Lindgren earns first career shutout

After an emotional comeback on Saturday night in Winnipeg, the Montreal Canadiens headed to Chicago to attempt to record their second road win against a Western Conference team in as many nights. The Blackhawks also had to travel home after a road shutout, at the expense of the Minnesota Wild.

At the opening of the game, the Habs were certainly not slow, but not as hard on the puck as they were on Saturday. Despite the defensive pairings looking slightly different, and Charlie Lindgren making his first NHL start of the year, all looked pretty solid early on.

In fact, Lindgren proved himself game-ready by the end of the first, when he sprawled across the crease to rob Jonathan Toews of an almost-sure goal. He also stoned noted sniper Patrick Kane in the first frame.

Montreal took two minor penalties in the first period, neither was of the nasty nature, and both were successfully killed off by the PK. Despite being outshot 14-9 by the ‘Hawks, the Canadiens headed to the intermission in a scoreless tie.

The first half of the second period saw the Canadiens put on their heels. Chicago dominated play and shot multiple pucks at Lindgren, but the young netminder kept frustrating their offence. By the halfway point of the game, Chicago’s shot attempts were eclipsing Montreal’s by a 40-27 margin, though neither team had yet to score.

Half an hour into regulation time, however, it seemed that the Habs found their game legs and began fighting back, breaking into the offensive zone more frequently and setting up more shots. This momentum helped the Canadiens draw two minors penalties late in the second period. The Blackhawks, however, would kill both thanks to their top-tier penalty kill and some strong goaltending from Corey Crawford.

After 40 minutes, the game still needed its first goal, and despite a strong finish to the second period, Montreal was being outshot 28-18.

The newly formed line of Artturi Lehkonen, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk was dangerous on most of their shifts, all three players demonstrating their speed and vision. They were rewarded less than two minutes into the third period, when Drouin finished off a team play by outskating everyone on the ice and beating Crawford with a beautiful shot to the top corner.

The play begain with Lehkonen breaking up a Blackhawks’ rush in the neutral zone. Joe Morrow, who jumped into the play near the blue line, sent the puck to Galchenyuk along the boards, who spun to free some space and passed the puck to a streaking Drouin. Drouin must have seen the play about to unfold, because he was racing across the middle of the ice, sped past everyone, and placed what looked like an effortless shot above Crawford, tucked just below the crossbar.

The goal was Jonathan Drouin’s third, and possibly best goal in a Habs uniform. It also preceded one of the more confusing highlights of the game, showing Montreal’s top centre on the bench … sans pants.

The goal was to the Canadiens as a drop of blood in a pool of sharks. The Habs’ offence kicked into high gear after the goal and increased their stranglehold on puck possession. Two very strong shifts each for the Drouin line and the Pacioretty-Danault-Shaw line and six minutes later, the lead would double thanks to unlikely hero Joe Morrow.

Jordie Benn wired a long-distance pass from deep in his own end towards the middle of the ice. In what must have been a set play, Max Pacioretty skated by the centre faceoff dot and just managed to tip the puck as it went past, sending it careening into Chicago territory, but avoiding icing thanks to the captain’s play. Pacioretty then chased the puck into the corner to strip Connor Murphy of the puck.

Andrew Shaw pinched in to help out, sending the puck to Phillip Danault further up the boards, who quickly passed it to the point, where Morrow unleashed his shot. Crawford was screened by Shaw, who has played another solid game.

The ‘Hawks would up their game for the final 10 minutes of regulation time, but nothing they fired at the Habs’ net would get past Charlie Lindgren, who recorded his first ever NHL shutout in a 2-0 victory.

The goaltending prospect is now 4-0-0, and though it’s a very small sample size, his stats line of 1.24 GAA and .960 save percentage are a hopeful sign of his potential.

Montreal is back on the winning track, scoring back-to-back wins, are now just three points away from several teams in playoff spots, including the division rival Toronto Maple Leafs. Next up, the franchise plays its first ever game against the Vegas Golden Knights, on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.

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