Rabid Habs

Postgame: Habs Dominate Isles, Lose 5-4 (OT)

If you wanna be dumb, you gotta be tough.

That doesn’t totally apply here, but it’s close enough.

If you’re gunna be bad, at least be fun. It’s all a Habs fan can reasonably expect at this point in the season, and the first two games out of the bye-week have delivered in that respect.

The early effort has been there for the Canadiens as of late. A good start against Boston rewarded the Canadiens with a goal.

Hockey is funny though. The Canadiens dominated in puck possession for the first minute or so of the game. The Islanders’ first possession of the game resulted in a another point for rookie phenom Matthew Barzal; an assist on a goal by Anthony Beauvillier. Using his speed, Barzal pushed the Habs back while Beauvillier got lost in coverage. Carey Price had no chance on the perfect shot, and the Isles had the early lead.

The Canadiens tried to push some more, but a similar result ensued.

This time it was Barzal scoring himself. Using some more of that ridiculous speed, Barzal took advantage of a flat-footed Jordie Benn. Burning Jakub Jerabek to the outside, Barzal unleashed a deadly wrist shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and into the net. 2-0. Real early.

It was 2-0, but it didn’t feel like it was 2-0.

And less than two minutes later, it wasn’t 2-0.

Nicolas Deslauriers, who cannot be stopped, found himself in front of the net and got the puck from Jerabek with enough time to write a book. His backhander beat Thomas Greiss for his sixth goal of the year. Adding to the weird period he had, Jerabek recorded his first NHL point on Deslauriers goal.

Strangely enough, it didn’t feel like Montreal was done.

And they weren’t done.

About five minutes later, newly minted centre Paul Byron created the equalizer when Greiss turned his back on the play. A David Schlemko slapshot hit the end boards and bounced into the slot. Greiss spun around to grab the puck, but he missed and Byron had the whole net to snag his 12th of the year.

(That was just the first period)

The second period began just like the first; with an Islanders goal.

On a three-on-two, Victor Mete blocked Barzal’s initial pass, but the puck bounced right to Pelech. Pelech beat Price upstairs and the Islanders had their third goal on just nine shots. Oh, and Matt Barzal had a three point night before the game was half over. 3-2 Islanders.

And then they scored again. Shorthanded, John Tavares was gifted a breakaway. On a play that you see about 20 times a game, Alex Galchenyuk tried a bank pass of the boards to Jeff Petry. The puck took a funny hop and the rest was history. Tavares’ 23rd of the year was the fourth goal of the game for the Islanders on just ten shots.

David Schlemko thought he scored on the powerplay, but the play was deemed to be offside nearly a minute before the puck went over the line. The Islanders’ challenge was successful and Montreal lost the goal. I’m going to tee off on that later. It’s infuriating. Still 4-2.

In the final minute of the period, the Canadiens made this a one goal game. Montreal did a good job getting to the front of the net all night, and Jonathan Drouin’s tally was a pretty good example of that. Skating the puck below the right faceoff dot, Jerabek fired a wrist shot through the crowd. The puck bounced around before being knocked into the net for Drouin’s sixth goal of the year. 4-3 New York heading into the third.

Montreal pushed for the tying goal, and with seven minutes left, they got it.

On the powerplay, a Jeff Petry shot bounced off Max Pacioretty and into the net. Galchenyuk gets his second assist of the game, giving him five points over his last five games. Pacioretty now has goals in four straight games and suddenly the Habs offense has a pulse. 4-4.

Montreal would erase two two-goal leads and force overtime, collecting at least one point for the fourth straight game.

But the single point was all the Habs got. Tavares’ second of the game ends this one. After a pair of gorgeous saves by Price, Tavares finally put home a rebound. Habs fall 5-4 in a game where they out shot the opposition 56-24. That’s not a typo.

Considering the shot clock and the fact that Montreal should have had a 5-4 lead at the end of regulation if it weren’t for the absurdity that is the offside challenge, it feels like they got robbed of the full two points.

Jerabek

It’s been tough for Jerabek to put together a consistent set of games. It’s his first year playing the North American game and sometimes that’s pretty obvious. The first two goals against were a pretty good indicator of that, as he was just blown away by the speed of Barzal. Jerabek is much stronger with the puck than without it, which is a trend among young defensemen. He’ll figure it out in time.

But for the time being, a two point game is never a bad thing.

Offside Reviews

For any support for the abolition of the offside challenge, all one has to do is watch Islanders’ head coach Doug Weight after the goal was called back. As Sabatoge by The Beastie Boys played in the Bell Centre, the second year coach could hardly hold back a smile. He knew what he just got away with. His team was lucky to be where it was with four goals on just ten shots. He saw the Canadiens putting together yet another two goal comeback. So he took advantage off a well-known rule quagmire to get his team off the hook.

Fifty-five seconds. That’s the amount of time between Schlemko’s potential goal and Charles Hudon’s skate coming an inch off the ice before the puck crossed the line.

When the concept of “offsides” was created, it never had this in mind. Yes, it’s technically correct, but that shouldn’t be what get’s it done. In a sport where you need to move your feet to be successful, it seems odd that players would be punished for just that.

And when the referees have to review plays that are determined by inches on tablets as small as some phones using broadcast feeds that look like live highway footage you see on the news, it’s time for change.

Weight didn’t challenge this because he thought it gave the Canadiens an unfair advantage; he challenged it because winning it would give his team one.

And instead of taking a 5-4 victory at the end of regulation, the Canadiens lose by the same score in overtime.

Deslauriers

Let’s get back to some positive vibes. I’ll be among the first to admit I was wrong about Nicolas Deslauriers. From his call-up, it seemed like he was just a goon. His play style certainly makes this connection feasible, but his skating makes it disingenuous. Deslauriers is more than just a banger because his foot speed is above average for guys in that role. Plop a 6’1″ frame on top of those boots with a decent hockey IQ and you’ve got a more than serviceable fourth liner.

Yeah, his shooting percentage is sky-high, but take out his goals and he’s still a very useful hockey player.

Price

No, the loss isn’t on his shoulders.

At the same time, when your skaters get you four goals on nearly 60 shots, you can’t give up five goals on 24 shots.

That ought to do it for me. Montreal’s next game is in enemy territory; Boston. If the Habs don’t win, we should at least hope for another exciting game.

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan and follow @RabidHabs for more updates!