If we had asked Habs’ fans before going into this weekend if they would have been happy with three points out of four I am sure most would have jumped at it. I mean, it was a back to back situation with travel and the first game being against the best team so far in the NHL, the Washington Capitals. And yet, after indeed earning three points this weekend there was a sour taste in fans’ mouths.
As well as they played Friday night in a 5-2 victory on the road against the Capitals it was frustrating that they played such a, for the most part, flat game against the much weaker New Jersey Devils Saturday night at the Bell Centre. If you don’t react in a knee jerk kind of way then it does make sense. They got really “up” for the game against the class of the NHL Capitals and then could not get inspired 24 hours later for the Devils. It is a common occurence with the 2019-20 version of the Canadiens. At least so far this season. It seems like they either play up or down to the calibre of their opponents.
The 4-3 loss (in overtime) was especially frustrating as they scored the game’s first goal which usually means they win and they held a 3-1 lead at one point only to allow their opponents to score the next three straight goals. Sigh…
Keith Kinkaid has the misfortune of being the starting goalie on this evening for the bleu-blanc-rouge. Misfortune in that, even thought he was at the top of his game, his teammates weren’t. He saw plenty of rubber as result with New Jersey getting 43 shots on goal. Kinkaid deserved better as he was the main reason his team even got a point out of it. However, this game does not help his won-loss record which is 1-1-2. Plus the fact that he lost to his former team I am sure made it sting even more.
Somehow, despite the fact that they were being widely outshot, Montreal took the lead in the game. Jeff Petry, once again showing his hockey acumen and smooth skating, delayed shooting the puck until Brendan Gallagher was open in the slot and fed through a shot/pass which the Habs’ gritty forward deflected past a helpless Mackenzie Blackwood.
The lead did not last long as they gave up a goal in the last minute of the 1st. To tie up the game. Nikita Gusev scored with just 19 seconds left in the first frame. It was New Jersey’s 19th shot. Montreal did not really deserve to be tied with Jersey as they were outshot 20-9, but, hey, hockey isn’t always fair.
Then quickly in the 2nd period the kids on the Habs got them a two goal lead. First was the first of his NHL career by defenseman Cale Fleury. Showing some nice hands in the slot he moved from his forehand to backhand then flipped a hot past Blackwood. Then on a 5-on-3 Nick Suzuki, who had another pretty strong game, pushed in a pass from Max Domi from in tight. Just like that 3-1 Habs.
For over 30 minutes in this game, the refs did not call a penalty. Once they decided to pull the whistle out of their pockets they went in heavy. Over the last 25 minutes or so of the game there was a steady stream of players going to the penalty box. Some were warranted while many were ridiculous. Like the phantom hit to the head call against Brett Kulak. He never even made contact with the Devils’ player’s head. Blake Coleman fooled them by snapping his head back and they bought it.
Special Teams was not great for Montreal on this evening. Though they did score a power play goal of their own, three of New Jersey’s goals came via special teams. Late in the 2nd period while Montreal was on the power play, a fumbling of the puck at the New Jersey blueline led to a 2-on-1 with Niko Hischier scoring shorthanded. Jersey also went 2-for-6 on the power play.
Domi is a rather feisty guy, who often plays on the edge. But so far this season he had not earned a single penalty. Well, he now has three. Three in one game! His double minor in the 3rd period was especially frustrating. Not because he didn’t deserve them, but because one was dumb then he followed that up with selfish. After a Devils player lost his stick in front of their bench Domi proceeded to push it away with his stick. A definitely penalty. He then, on his way to the box, said something to the ref and got another penalty. Maybe Domi was in a bad mood about being moved to the wing while rookie Suzuki played centre…
There were a couple of other roster changes made by the head coach of the Canadiens. Claude Julien had Jesperi Kotkaniemi back from his groin injury. He played a decent game. Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron were out with injuries, so Charles Hudon was called up from Laval to play. He was inserted on the 4th line with Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson. Hudon did not get tons of ice time because of all the penalties over the last period, so not much of a chance to impress the coach.
It was during the second of Domi’s minor penalties which the Devils scored to tie the game 3-3. Wayne Simmonds scored one from his office – just outside the crease – on a nice cross ice pass from Taylor Hall.
Montreal tried to take a page from the New Jersey book by scoring a last minute of the period goal of their own. It looked like Phillip Danault had put the Habs back up after scoring on a scramble in the Devils’ crease. The goal was reviewed and the refs, after looking at it a long while, ruled that Danault had “kicked” it in even though it went in off his hip. Sigh. They got the rule right, in that you are not allowed to deliberately direct the puck in the net with anything but your stick, but the explanation sucked. As did the fact that PK Subban probably deserved a penalty on Danault and that Nico Hishier put his hand on the puck in the crease, so Montreal should have at minimum had a penalty shot.
As the overtime period began, the refs could not help themselves and Danault was given a hooking penalty. Kyle Palmieri scored on the power play off another cross ice feed from Hall and a one time slapper which beat Kinkaid on the short side.
Next up for Montreal is a game on the road on Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s see how they play against another team lower than them in the standings.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees – Chris Rooney and Frederic L’Ecuyer
Linesmen – David Brisebois and Scott Driscoll
-Goals: 1st Period:
18:41: Montreal – Brendan Gallagher assisted by Jeff Petry and Tomas Tatar
19:41: New Jersey – Nikita Gusev assisted by Blake Coleman and Travis Zajac
7:43: Montreal – Cale Fleury assisted by Phillip Danault
18:42: Montreal – (pp) Nick Suzuki assisted by Max Domi and Shea Weber
19:59: New Jersey – (sh) Nico Hischier assisted by Pavel Zacha
15:12: New Jersey – (pp) Wayne Simmonds assisted by Taylor Hall and Jack Hughes
1:30: New Jersey – (pp) Kyle Palmieri assisted by Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 34
New Jersey – 43
-Three Stars: 1) Kyle Palmieri
2) Nikita Gusev
3) Keith Kincaid
-Final Score: Montreal – 3
New Jersey – 4 (OT)