Rabid Habs

Postgame: Habs Best Canucks in Wild 7-5 Affair

After a poor display on a national stage at the NHL 100 Classic on Saturday, Montreal had a chance to get back on track indoors on Tuesday. Of course, they had to do it without their only true top-pairing defenseman, as Shea Weber was sent home with a reoccurring foot injury.

For the first few minutes of the game, Montreal seemed to be playing guilty; in a good way. The Habs started the game with a lot of jump, creating a grade-A scoring chance just minutes into the game. On a broken play, Jeff Petry was able to keep control of the puck at the blueline before funneling it to the slot. Jonathan Drouin created a tic-tac-toe play with Paul Byron and Max Pacioretty, but Pacioretty’s one-timer was pulled off the line by Anders Nielsen.

Pacioretty, with a frustrated look on his face, tapped Byron on the head when the two reached the bench. Not scoring is killing him, but he’s doing his best to stay positive.

The Canucks got two powerplays in the first period, and if Carey Price wasn’t in net, they would have had two powerplay goals. On the first penalty kill, Price put on a masterclass in rebound control and finding the puck through traffic.

On the second powerplay, generated from a needless high-sticking penalty from Joe Morrow, Price did all he could but could not stop Thomas Vanek, who could have built a house before anyone in white got to him. Vanek’s eight of the year from Derrick Pouliot and Sam Gagner gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead and continued a trend of bad starts for the Montreal Canadiens.

The good news is that the lead didn’t last. With Vanek in the box for tripping, the Canadiens manufactured a goal on a deflection from Daniel Carr. Carr’s third goal of the season was his eight point in eight games, and came off a point shot from David Schlemko and a feed from Charles Hudon.

Outshot 16-9 in the first, the Canadiens somehow managed to escape with a 1-1 tie.

In the second, the Canadiens cashed in on that good fortune with the first goal of the frame. Jeff Petry, who really seems to elevate his game in the absence of Weber, took the puck for a walk, fed Byron Froese, who found Nicolas Deslauriers sneaking in the back door. Deslauriers’ second of the year gave the Habs a 2-1 lead.

But like Vancouver’s first period lead, Montreal’s advantage was not long for this world. Once again, the Habs left Vanek wide open in front of the net, and he deflected an Alex Biega pass behind Price. Particularly brutal defending from a team that is missing, essentially, an entire top pairing. 2-2.

The see-saw affair continued before the period ended with Deslauriers burying his second of the game on a one-timer. This lead lasted just 34 seconds, as Daniel Sedin’s seventh of the year tied the game. Tomas Plekanec picked off a cross-ice attempt, but then fell into Price, giving Sedin an empty net. 3-3.

On the Habs second powerplay of the game (yes, we’re still in the second period), Petry only needed three seconds to bury his fourth of the season. 4-3 Montreal.

Montreal flipped the script in the second. Remember how they were outshot 16-9 in the first? Shots were 14-9 in the second; 25-23 overall in favor of Vancouver.

Montreal kept their foot on the gas in the third. Paul Byron’s 10th of the season gave Montreal the 5-3 lead, and their first double-digit goal-scorer of the season. Give Drouin and Pacioretty two really good assists on Byron’s tally, as Drouin started the goal with a stretch pass from the blueline, and Pacioretty helped Byron finish the play with a blind, but perfect, pass to the slot.

The Canucks got back on the board and cut the lead in half with fewer than ten minutes left. Brock Boeser, left all alone from the blueline to the slot, skated in on Price and unleashed an unstoppable shot for his 18th of the year. 5-4 Habs.

With the Canucks pushing for the equalizer, Montreal got yet another insurance marker. Forcing a turnover at the Habs’ blueline, Phillip Danault created a two-on-one with Alex Galchenyuk. Chucky made no mistake, putting his shot under the bar for his eight of the year. 6-4.

Of course, Vanek finished his hat trick on a broken play with a minute to go in the game. Blown coverages left and right. The puck bounced off of Pacioretty’s glove before Vanek finished his three goal game.

Montreal could have panicked, but they didn’t. Danault finished the game with an empty netter, and the Habs escaped Vancouver with a wild 7-5 win.

Penalty Kill

Horrible. Ugly. Amateur. Pathetic.

How do you leave Brock Boeser that wide open? And Vanek? Just awful coverage. Over the past little while, the penalty kill has actually been pretty good. It was a tremendous disappointment in Vancouver.

The Fourth Line

After an overhaul of the fourth line, it seems like Claude Julien has finally found a good mix. Daniel Carr, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Byron Froese combined for five points against Vancouver. Playing a safe, physical brand of hockey, the fourth line is a favorite of the coach; for better or worse. Coach Julien will have a hard decision to make when Artturi Lehkonen returns to the lineup.

Jeff Petry

Beast-mode Petry is back. On Deslauriers first goal, Petry did his best Erik Karlsson impression, forcing the defense back and making a great feed to set up a goal. When Weber isn’t on the ice, Petry plays his best hockey. A two-point second period performance propelled the Canadiens in this one. When he’s on, he’s one of the leaders on this roster.

That’ll do it for me. Look for my next column after the Habs take on the Calgary Flames on Friday night.

Go Habs Go.

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