The clock is ticking on this Montreal Canadiens season. It seems a foregone conclusion that they’ll miss the playoffs for a third straight season, but as long as it’s still a mathematical possibility for them to get in, you can’t fault them for trying.
A win against the Florida Panthers — one of the teams they’ll need to beat in order to pull off a miracle run — would go a long way towards that end. With a back-to-back coming up against Columbus on Sunday, this game was beyond crucial if they were hoping to hold on to their playoff hopes.
They got exactly the kind of start they would need. Just over five minute in, Nick Suzuki walked into the offensive zone with space, and fired an absurdly quick shot to beat Sergei Bobrovsky down low to make it 1-0 for the home team.
It was a mostly dominant first frame for the Habs, but despite this they still went into the break with just the one goal lead. Luckily they kept their foot on the gas, and kept pressuring to extend the lead. Just over five minutes into the frame, Jeff Petry put a shot on goal and Artturi Lehkonen was able to deflect it through the five-hole of Bobrovsky to make it 2-0.
Brendan Gallagher would add yet another insurance marker to make it 4-0 just over 10 minutes into the third, tipping in another Petry shot to give the defenseman his fourth assist of the afternoon.
And that was all she wrote. Carey Price earned a shutout to pass Ken Dryden in that category on the Habs’ all-time list, and the team gets a chance tomorrow to put themselves in a position to accomplish a run that most of us, myself included, thought was out of the question.
The Blue Jackets are another team ahead of the Habs in the race for a wildcard spot, so they had better come to play if it is something they want to make a reality. There is zero margin for error, so they have to bring the same standard of play they set on this Saturday afternoon.
- The Panthers were coming off a long break, but they are a playoff team, and the Habs dominated them. I am still extremely skeptical about Montreal’s ability to pull off a miracle run to the playoffs, but this win was mandatory if it is still something they’re trying to pull off. If not, just the fact that they can win like that against a team headed to the playoffs means they might not be so far from being competitive.
- My feelings on this season have been made clear, as I’ve advocated for selling. However, if they can win their next three games starting tomorrow, I could get on the bandwagon. A win over Columbus would be huge, then they’ll have two winnable games against the Devils and Ducks. Take all three of these games, and I’ll be a lot more interested in next weekend’s tilt with the Maple Leafs. It is a longshot, but who doesn’t love a good comeback story?
- Nick Suzuki seems determined to do whatever he can to help the comeback effort. Even if you take away his goal, he was unreal, and it’s a hugely positive sign for the future of this team that he seems to be getting better by the day. He looks faster than he was at the start of the year. If the comeback can’t happen, Habs fans can take solace in the fact that he looks like the real deal.
- Jeff Petry was also unreal, and earned himself the first star of the game. If the rumours of teams calling the Habs to inquire about his services are true, the price just went up a little. As much as I have advocated to trade other players on the roster, Petry is one where I’d give a little more pause. That being said, if the team is out by the deadline, they have to consider offers, because he’s likely to draw very serious interest with the way he’s playing.
- Carey Price passed Ken Dryden on the all-time shutout list with a great, if unspectacular performance. He didn’t have a lot of work on the night, but the Panthers did manage some quality chances in the third. Price has faced criticism this year for his play, but if you take out the horrid month of November, his numbers are very good. If a miracle run is really in the cards, they need him to play like this as much as possible.
- When will Phillip Danault get some legitimate consideration for the Selke Trophy? His assist was great if a tad lucky, but he made numerous impressive defensive plays that stood out even more. It will be almost criminal if he isn’t at least a finalist for the award this summer. He needs to be recognized for what he’s done on a struggling team.
Less than 24 hours before some more Habs action. After that, we can all sit down and enjoy the Super Bowl.
Canadiens @ Oilers: Start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch – Habs Eyes on the Prize
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet 360 (English), TVAS (French)
The Montreal Canadiens will look to add another win on their Western-Canada-plus-Seattle road trip two nights removed from an exciting 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday. The game might have been a one-goal contest, but it would’ve been a lot different if goaltender Jake Allen hadn’t stood on his head, making a whopping 45 saves in the victory, his first since November 19.
Tale of the Tape
|45.8% (24th)||Scoring-chances-for %||50,5% (17th)|
|2,78 (26th)||Goals per game||3,42 (9th)|
|3,39 (22nd)||Goals against per game||3,63 (7th)|
|15,7% (29th)||PP%||27,6% (5th)|
|82,3% (6th)||PK%||71,6% (27th)|
|1-1-0||H2H Record (’21-22)||1-1-0|
On Thursday, it was Montreal’s first overall pick from this summer’s draft, Juraj Slafkovský, who opened the scoring on the first shot of the game at 13 seconds, when Calgary all-star goaltender Jacob Markstrom decided to leave his crease to try to play the puck, which inevitably resulted in a poor miscue by the former Vezina nominee.
Habs standout Cole Caufield, who has been mesmerizing fans and brass alike, scored the eventual game-winner, a power-play marker six-and-a-half minutes into the third period for his team-leading 13th goal of the season. The man advantage has been a bit of a soft spot all season, finding itself 29th in the league, and also especially after going zero-for-six earlier in the week against San Jose, it was nice to see it clicking for once.
Thursday’s game was also a homecoming of sorts for Sean Monahan, a former 2013 first-round pick of the Calgary Flames. His return was met with a lot of chants and cheers, as opposed to Kirby Dach’s return to Chicago a week prior. Monahan, who currently sits fourth in team scoring with five goals and 16 points, assisted on both Montreal goals.
Tonight’s opponent, the Edmonton Oilers, saw their three-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt in their last game Thursday night, a 5-3 loss to Kirill ‘The Thrill’ Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild squad. The Oilers’ one-two punch of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl each had a goal and a helper in the contest, but it didn’t help their cause.
McDavid and Draisaitl have been two of the best players in the game in recent years, and yet again find themselves on pace for record-setting seasons, sitting number one and three in the NHL scoring race, respectively. McDavid’s 19 goals and 43 points through his first 24 games make his numbers last season (44 goals and 79 assists) look like a poor performance for the perennial all-star.
His German counterpart currently has 16 goals and 38 points, making his career-best totals of 55 goals and 110 points also seem well within reach, which makes these two some of the best teammates at the top of the leaderboard since the late-90s when the Pittsburgh Penguins had Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr taking the league down in a fury.
Both Edmonton goaltenders, Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner, have shared an equal workload with Mike Smith on the Long-Term Injured Reserve list. Campbell, who signed an off-season deal with the Oilers at five years and-$25 million, has put up seven wins, but a league-worst 4.12 goals-against-average.
Last season saw these two squads split the season series, with each road team getting a victory. Edmonton took the first contest, a 7-2 dismantling at the Bell Centre on January 29, and then Montreal exacted revenge on March 5, with a 5-2 victory at Rogers Place.
One bright spot for Habs last year was that of all nine of Edmonton’s goal-scorers versus Montreal, none wore the number 97. McDavid registered zero points across both contests. Just a little optimism that it can repeat itself Saturday in Alberta.
NHL Buzz: Manson out week to week for Avalanche – NHL.com
Welcome to the NHL Buzz. The 2022-23 regular season is underway, and NHL.com has you covered with all the latest news.
Josh Manson is out week to week for the Avalanche because of a lower-body injury.
The defenseman, who sustained the injury in a 6-4 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, has six points (two goals, four assists) in 21 games this season.
Andreas Englund was recalled from Colorado of the American Hockey League. He has one assist in four games with the Avalanche this season.
“Englund has played good when he’s been up with us,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “I really like what he did when he was up. … Just another big (6-foot-3, 189 pounds), heavy, strong guy that’s been an efficient puck mover for us on the back end.”
Teuvo Teravainen could return for the Hurricanes on Saturday one day after the forward was activated off injured reserve.
Teravainen, who has missed the past 10 games with an upper-body injury, has seven assists in 14 games this season.
Carolina plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; BSW, BSSO, ESPN+, SN NOW).
Cam Atkinson said he’s getting closer to making his season debut, but the forward remains day to day because of an upper-body injury.
Atkinson added he’s been fully cleared for contact and is not restricted in any way.
“It’s obviously good to be back with everyone and take a little bit of licks and see how I do,” Atkinson said. “Just day to day for me right now.
“It’s been pretty good. A little bit of an adjustment but just working out the kinks. I’m getting close, but not enough to where I think I can help this team right now. But I’m closer than not.”
Atkinson was second on the Flyers in goals (23) and points (50) last season. Entering Saturday, Philadelphia was last in the NHL in goals per game (2.38).
Atkinson said the nature of his injury has allowed him to skate and stay in shape that way but that it might take a game or two for him to get his timing with the puck back to normal.
“If I was playing and if we had a day off, even one day off, even if I played 30 games and I took a day off, I still feel like that next practice my timing is just a little bit off,” he said. “Maybe it’s more mental than not. So obviously not playing any games it’s going to take a game or two to get adjusted, but we’re on a pretty good schedule for me right now. I’ve revved it up a lot and I’m feeling good. I feel like my timing is pretty solid, but you really won’t know until you play a game.” — Adam Kimelman
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