Rabid Habs

Canadiens vs. Senators: Game #1

Habs' Tomas Plekanec

“It’s tough to say what you have to do to win the series. Every series develops its own identity. It will be important for us to take things one game at a time. It starts tonight. We have to get off to a good start. We know how well they’ve been playing lately. It will be important for us to establish ourselves in Game 1 and use the crowd to our advantage.” – Brendan Gallagher

The Montreal Canadiens were chosen as the hosts of the first game in round one against the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night. This is the first time since 2013 that the Canadiens and the Senators have met up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with 2013 not going as planned for the Habs, as the Ottawa won round one in five games. With the Canadiens’ “American Sniper” Max Pacioretty missing the first game, the Habs will be working hard to make up for the missing weight of his goal production. So far, Lars Eller (who scored four in the last seven regular season games), Tomas Plekanec (who is currently on a four goal scoring streak), and surprisingly Jeff Petry have really stepped up to the plate in Pacioretty’s absence, as well as the team as a whole winning the past three games without the help of their main man. On the other side of the ice, the Senators have had a somewhat solid season, making their entry into the playoffs both historic and quite shocking. Most recently, the Senators won the 2014-15 season series against the Habs 3-1, outscoring the Canadiens 14-9 over four games (both Milan Michalek (1G-5A) and Erik Karlsson (3G-3A) racked up six points each against the Habs this season). The Senators also have somewhat of a “deadly weapon,” which is goaltender Andrew Hammond who has a 1.80 GAA and a .934 save percentage over the last five games. The “Hamburglar” also has a 2.00 GAA and a .945 save percentage against the Habs over two games. While there’s an opportunity for Ottawa to egg on the Canadiens in the series which will put more pressure on Carey Price to save his team from an embarrassing loss, the Habs will have to work twice as hard as they did in the last two games in order to give themselves a chance to win tonight’s match up and possibly move on to round two.

A terrible bounce from Andrei Markov into his own net (the credit was given to Milan Michalek who was assisted by Erik Karlsson) gave the Senators their first goal of the night with seven minutes and 35 seconds left. The first period was a fiery one as both the Senators and the Canadiens were making sure each side of the ice knew how much they couldn’t stand each other. While the Habs were able to get the first three shots on net, they seemed to struggle quite a bit when it came to puck possession, having better possession on the penalty kill than even strength and while the troops were able to generate shot attempts (keeping the shots on net even – eight to eight), the struggle to generate strong offense and defense just wasn’t there. Nevertheless, the Senators had better scoring chances and ended up leading in shots on net (nine to eight), essentially dominating the Habs in the first period.

Torrey Mitchell put Montreal on the board into the second period (assisted by Brian Flynn and P.K. Subban), which was then followed 15 seconds later by a second goal from Tomas Plekanec (assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and P.K. Subban). Subban was removed from the game afterwards due to slashing on Mark Stone, which eliminates one of the Habs’ strongest game breakers and defensemen. While Kyle Turris responded back to Plekanec’s goal with just nine minutes left of the period, putting the game at a two to two tie on the power play, Lars Eller came through on a break away with Brian Flynn and gave the Habs their lead back with a short handed goal with just eight minutes and 18 seconds to go. However, the Senators battled back and put the game at a tie yet again thanks to Mika Zibanejad on the power play (assisted by Patrick Wiercioch and Erik Karlsson) at seven minutes and 28 seconds. The Canadiens started to pick up the slack and Brian Flynn worked hard around the boards to take the puck right to the net between the legs of Hammond (assisted by Brandon Prust and Nathan Beaulieu), with just two minutes and 43 seconds left. Despite a slow and struggling first period, the Habs gained their energy back and ended the period with a four to three lead.

While the Senators were bringing on the pressure and trying to break the Habs’ lead, the Canadiens were waking up, become more physicial and getting better puck possession than the last two periods. With a strong offense and defense, the Canadiens were keeping the Senators out of the Montreal zone for most of the period, shooting down any chances they got to put pucks on net. A power play at six minutes and 10 seconds gave the Habs the perfect opportunity to stay two points ahead of Ottawa but despite not getting the power play goal they wanted, the Montreal Canadiens played a solid third period which was good enough to beat the Ottawa Senators in game one of round one of the playoffs.

The Montreal Canadiens face the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre on Friday at 7:00pm.

(Purchase your Canadiens tickets here. | Achetez vos billets des Canadiens ici.)

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