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Canadiens vs. Wild Top Six Minutes: Not-so-special teams

Oct 17, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Sam Montembeault (35) stops Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Foligno (17) during the first period at the Bell Centre. | Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Two games is all we get of the best lineup the Montreal Canadiens can ice. Kirby Dach is out and will be for a while. Time to see how the team responds.

First period

  • The Bell Centre is surprisingly empty for the start of the game. And yet still managing to create a good atmosphere.
  • Montreal looks like the better team out of the gate, as has been the case in each game so far.
  • Despite that, the first proper scoring chance goes to Minnesota, but the Sheriff is on the case to clear the puck.
  • Now the Wild hit the post. The Habs need to get things back under control.
  • Alex Newhook just about got set up for the opening goal, but he can’t solve Marc-Andre Fleury while tangled up by a Minnesota defender.
  • And now the Canadiens go to the penalty kill after a call on Josh Anderson that neither he not Martin St-Louis agrees with. It’s the 12th penalty called against Montreal already this season.
  • They survive, and there’s a call right away for a trip on Anderson. I think there’s a makeup element to that one.
  • And the power play actively hurts the Habs as it gives up the first goal. Sean Monahan didn’t work to prevent a two-on-one, and Brandon Duhaime beat Montembeault without needing to pass.
  • It’s not too early to replace Alex Burrows.
  • And … another short-handed goal. Tanner Pearson and Arber Xhekaj were too nonchalant in playing versus just one forward right near their crease.
  • Well the Habs haven’t played from behind much this season. So we’ll see how they react.
  • Montreal doesn’t have a shot since the opening couple of minutes, trailing 11-2 in that category with six minutes to play. I shouldn’t have made that comment about it being a good start.
  • Another post for Minnesota. This one could be looking very bad if not for some near misses.
  • Dach is important to this team, but I don’t think he’s this important.
  • Anderson gets stopped point-blank by Fleury after a turnover by Minnesota.
  • A great play by Cole Caufield, who dangles the puck through his man, survives a hit, collects the puck and works in toward the net.
  • The Habs did settle down and start to get some shots at the end of the period. They need to carry that into the second to get back in this.

Second period

  • Montreal is getting a penalty for tripping. Juraj Slafkovský got his stick caught on the foot of his teammate, and a Wild player fell over the tripwire.
  • Now Guhle gets a penalty for knocking a stick out of a player’s one-handed grip.
  • And it’s 3-0 on the five-on-three.
  • Shots are 18-5. Montreal is just not competitive in this one.
  • An offensive-zone penalty for Caufield. Nothing is going right in this one.
  • A dangerous short-handed rush from Jake Evans, Jesse Ylönen, and Mike Matheson. Might be the best chance of the entire night for Montreal.
  • Another short-handed rush. Unfortunately, the Canadiens weren’t as opportunistic as the Wild while a man down.
  • On the sixth shot just shy of the midpoint of the game, Tanner Pearson fights off a hold (no penalty and maybe that’s a good thing), leads another two-on-one, and fires a puck short-side on Fleury. The comeback is on.
  • Michael Pezzetta wins a wrestling match versus Duhaime. Now we won’t know if it was Pearson’s goal or Pezzetta’s fight that sparked it if the Habs come all the way back.
  • Sixteen more fights in short order, and Cole Caufield could have the ice all to himself here.
  • Matheson defended his man well and forced him to the ice. I did look to see if the ref’s hand was up, though.
  • I think one issue with the second periods is that the forwards believe the defencemen are going to join them on the rush up the ice, but those defencemen are reluctant to join in, needing to focus on conserving energy to make a change when the shift is over.
  • Bad news: It’s another Canadiens power play.
  • It’s really amazing how much pressure the Habs players are put under while they have an extra man out there. They don’t earn any advantage of extra space with their lack of motion
  • Slafkovský is back to the box for knocking the stick out of a PKer’s hands. Someone get this team a partnership with the Twins’ pine tar supplier.
  • But seriously, the fact that a player had to do that to try to create an advantage while already a man up is as good an indication as any that the power play needs drastic improvements.
  • Evans and Ylönen force the Wild PP to play defence again. I like this duo.
  • Now we see Guhle heading to the dressing room for the second time in two games, so it’s good that the Canadiens have/had another player playing through an injury.
  • Kirill Kaprizov makes it 4-1 on the abbreviated power play.
  • Xhekaj gets hooked leading a rush, so the final two minutes will be played on the power play, barring any dropped sticks by the Wild.
  • Fleury makes an incredible save on Pearson to keep his team’s three-goal lead heading into the second intermission
  • And they will come out of it with another power play because of a hit from Xhekaj after the horn.
  • It ends in a 5-2 score.

Third period

  • Guhle will not reutnr to the game.
  • Joel Eriksson Ek takes a whack at Samuel Montembeault’s glove after a save, and Matheson jumps on him. It will be offsetting penalties.
  • The crowd was booing as the ref was announcing the Minnesota penalty, and who can blame them for that?
  • Jake Evans. He’s authored the Canadiens greatest chances tonight, while short-handed. He nearly set up Johnny Kovacevic for a short-handed goal, but some acrobatics from Fleury prevents the goal.
  • The crowd begins a Fleury chant. Not everyone is happy about that.
  • A Wild player had the stick knocked out of his hands going around the official. The ref was probably conflicted there for a second.
  • Another stick infraction for Montreal. A high stick by Pearson on an attempted stick lift, that looks like it actually missed.
  • It’s the ninth minor of the game from the Habs.
  • 5-1 Wild as no one was actually defending the front of the net.
  • I don’t think the Canadiens are going to move up to the top of the division tonight.
  • A dangerous shift at five-on-five from Ylönen and Evans again.
  • It has sparked the Habs to end this game well, stringing a few good shifts together. That’s the most they can do in this one.
  • Pezzetta lands a big hit, then has to fight for a second time. He showed off some ambidexterity with some rights and left, and scored another takedown. The ref correctly gives the instigator to the Wild, giving the Habs a late power play.
  • Caufield gets a good off and goes for a rebound. But Eriksson Ek, who was taken down for something similar earlier in the game, takes exception to the light contact.
  • More penalties get handed out because the refs don’t want things to get out of hand. That (mercifully) ends Montreal’s power play.
  • Caufueld makes a good play to hold the puck at the line, stick-handles around a couple of players, and get the puck to David Savard. Savard slings it over to Newhook, and the new centre scores his third of the year.
  • Montreal back on the power play, and with the net empty.
  • The fans just laugh when the Canadiens can’t connect passes on the PP. What else can you do at this point?

EOTP 3 Stars

3) In any capacity would be an upgrade

2) Not the positive kind of double negative.

1) Look on the bright side!