NHL Playoffs: Round #1 – Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators @ Canadian Tire Centre – April 19, 2015

montreal canadiens vs ottawa senators2It was reinforced during last year’s lengthy playoff run that if you want to far in the NHL playoffs that your role or support players have to contribute offensively.  A team’s depth is very important during the war of attrition that is the NHL playoffs.  Last year 3rd or 4th line guy, Dale Weise, contributed to Montreal’s run and earned himself the nickname the Dutch Gretzky.  With his team up 2-0 in the opening series, Weise once again donned the Superman cape and played a vital role in his team’s 2-1 overtime victory.


Despite the fact that Montreal was up 2-0 in the series I’m sure there was some trepidation on the part of players and fans alike when the series switched from Montreal to Ottawa.  The Bleu-Blanc-Rouge did not win at the Canadian Tire Centre this season going 0-2.


It is said that games 1 & 3 & 5 are important in a series.  As such Ottawa coach Dave Cameron decided not to risk staying with his rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond for game 3.  He gave the starting goalie assignment to veteran, Craig Anderson.  Anderson has had some success against the Canadiens.  Habs’ fans will wince thinking back to what he did to them in the 2013 playoffs.


Another change he made was to dress veteran tough guy, Chris Neil.  He was obviously looking for some muscle and jump in his line-up.  Neil had not been in the line-up since February, so you know he be itching to play.  He had missed the team’s last 30 games due partially to a fractured thumb.  Neil would play on the 4th line with Mike Hoffman and David Legwand.


Michel Therrien had made zero changes in his line-up going with the men who brung him there.  This despite the fact that Pierre Alexandre Paranteau was given the green light by the doctors to return to the line-up.


The first 10 minutes of the game were going to be very important for both teams.  Montreal would have to withstand the onslaught of Ottawa, who would be fighting for their lives and pumped to be back home.  The building was loud and raucous from the drop of the puck with Ottawa fans trying to spur on their team.


A sign of things to come for the Habs were the big bodychecks by Senators over the game’s opening minutes.  A couple of these were doled out the Senators’ captain, Erik Karlsson, who is better known for the offensive side of his game.  He was trying everything he could to lead his team to victory.


Ottawa struck first at the 11:28 mark of the 1st period.  Clarke MacArthur, who has one of the Senators most dangerous forwards throughout the series, got loose down low and made a nice forehand to backhand move on Carey Price, beating the Canadiens’ goalie low to the far side.  Mark Stone and Karlsson got the assists on the goal.  1-0 Ottawa.


It was the third straight game in which Ottawa scored the game’s first goal.  The Senators were flying and the building was electric.  Ottawa dominated the 1st period and it was by far their best period of the series so far.


Dave Cameron had made the right choice in regards to naming Anderson his starting goalie.  Over the course of the game he was tested often and early by the Habs.  Right off the hop Alex Galchenyuk had a good chance from the slot and Anderson was up to the test of his quick backhand.  Then late in the 1st period he showed his mettle off a deflection from the slot by Brian Flynn off an Alexei Emelin point shot.  He flashed he glove out quickly to snare the puck.  They say to be good you have to be luck and Anderson seemed to have that going for him as well.  On a power play by the Canadiens late in the 1st period P.K. Subban launched a shot that beat Anderson cleanly on his glove side only to have the puck hit the post and then harmlessly bounce back underneath the Senators’ goalie.


The 2nd period is where the Habs have scored 6 out of their 7 goals so far.  They turned up the tempo and took over.  Montreal outshot Ottawa 19-6 in the period and had several good scoring chances.  Unfortunately the Ottawa goaltender was up to the task and Ottawa escaped the period with its one goal lead.


A high pace continued into the 3rd period with not a lot of stoppages in play, but a lot of intensity.  It seemed like Anderson was going to befuddle the Canadiens once again in the playoffs and then Dale Weise changed the complexion of the game.


montreal canadiens vs ottawa senators4The 4th line has been very good for Montreal in the playoffs so far.  Almost single handedly they won the 1st game.  Now the same can be said for the 3rd as well.  Dale Prust barreled into the Ottawa end along the left hand side.  He got the puck back to Torrey Mitchell, who launched a shot at Anderson.  Anderson made the save, but his rebound control left something to be desired.  The puck floated through the air to Weise.  The Habs’ player calmly used his hand to put it on his stick and then fired it into the deserted net.  The game was tied with less than 6 minutes remaining.  1-1.


Overtime.  Ottawa dominated the beginning of the first overtime period.  Carey Price, who had been steady without being tested too severely over the course of the game, had to make a sparkling glove save off the microfractured wrist of Mark Stone early on.


Luck was on the Habs’ side when Emelin’s clearance from his own zone hit one of metal dividers in the glass and bounced oddly to Torrey Mitchell just outside the Senators’ blueline.  He played it over to Weise, who brought the puck along the left wing boards to the faceoff dot in the Ottawa end.  His wrist shot to the short side somehow sneaked past Anderson and the Montreal celebration was on.  2-1 Montreal.


motnreal canadiens vs ottawa senators3This was an intense contest in which Ottawa outmuscled the Habs.  Karlsson had 5 hits in the 1st period alone.  A biggie in the 2nd period came on a Nathan Beaulieu.  Beaulieu got a suicide pass from Tom Gilbert at his own blueline and Karlsson crushed him.  Beaulieu did not play in the 3rd period, but remained on the team bench.  They are calling it an upper body injury.


Montreal played a good road game.  They surrendered few shots and directed many at Anderson.  Finally they managed to find a way to beat him.  They also showed character and composure coming back in the 3rd period from one goal down on the road.


The win by the Canadiens means that Ottawa now has to beat them (and Price) four games in a row.  A seemingly impossible task.  Next game is Wednesday night in Ottawa/Kanata.


Game Stats:

-On-Ice Officials:  Referees – Dan O’Rourke and Brian Pochmara

Linesmen – Derek Amell and Derek Nansen

-Goals:  1st Period:

11:28:  Ottawa – Clarke MacArthur assisted by Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson

3rd Period:

14:13:  Montreal – Dale Weise assisted by Torrey Mitchell and Brandon Prust


1st Period:

8:47:  Montreal – Dale Weise assisted by Torrey Mitchell and Alexei Emelin

-Shots on Goal:  Montreal – 49

Ottawa – 34

-3 Stars:  1) Dale Weise

2)  Erik Karlsson

3)  Craig Anderson

-Attendance:  20,500

-Final Score:  Montreal – 2 (ot)

Ottawa – 1


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