Leon Draisaitl’s second goal of the game with 1:02 remaining in regulation time gave the Oilers a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Canadiens Thursday at Rexall Place in Edmonton. The Canadiens dominated the first period and cruised to a 3-0 lead on goals by Brendan Gallagher, Torrey Mitchell and Alex Galchenyuk but Draisaitl started the comeback with a power play goal late in the second period. In the third period Brandon Davidson made it 3-2 and former Canadien Benoit Pouliot tied it setting the stage for the game winner. Rookie Connor McDavid recorded two assists. Draisaitl, a first round draft pick of the Oilers in 2014, had been called up from the Oilers Bakersfield AHL franchise earlier in the day. Edmonton outshot the Canadiens 27-21 including 22-10 through final two periods. The three stars in Edmonton were McDavid, Draisaitl and Davidson.
Adding It Up –
The Graveyard – In recent years nothing goes well for the Canadiens or for that matter Carey Price when it comes to games at Rexall Place. Over the last 12 years the Canadiens have lost 6 of 8 games in Edmonton and had 30 goals scored on them. It’s as bad for Price who now is winless in four starts at Edmonton and has given up 17 goals on 100 shots for a save percentage of .830. That is by far his worse record against any team in the NHL. (Overall he has a career record of 1-6-1 vs. them).
Coasting – In the first period the Canadiens looked like the team that won the first seven games of the season against teams like the Rangers, Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The 3-0 lead came easy for them. As it turned out……too easy.
Off the Gas – With the big lead the Canadiens, as Michel Therrien would say, stopped playing the game “the right way”. Defensively their forecheck became soft and through the second and third period for some reason the defense stopped involving itself in the offense something that made the Canadiens the league’s number one goalscoring team. No NHL team is going to look that kind of gift horse in the mouth. The Oilers took ownership. After piling up ten shots in the first period the Canadiens could muster only 10 more through the final 40 minutes.
Slumping – That is four consecutive games where the Canadiens have come up with less than the kind of hockey with which they started the season. They were fortunate enough to be playing Buffalo and Toronto at the beginning of the slide. Vancouver and the Oilers weren’t as charitable about letting the Canadiens get away with the continuing sloppiness.
Tell Tail Numbers – If your eyes told you that the Plekanec line was the best of the bad lot you are right. They weren’t getting much support from the back end, but they had a good night. And the numbers back up what you saw. They were the only Canadiens line with positive Corsi numbers – Gallagher at 65%, Pacioretty at 61 and Plekanec at 52%. The line recorded 9 of the 22 Canadiens shots. The other forward units were a basic disaster. ….The addition of Brian Flynn to the Desharnais line didn’t help. Statistically they were the Canadiens worst forward unit. And Desharnais looked awful as he was beaten to the puck behind the net on what turned out to be the winning goal…..….It says a lot that Alexei Emelin was the only defenseman on the positive side of the Corsi’s at 54%. (Jeff Petry was even at 50%). Subban and Markov were around 45%. The Beaulieu/Gilbert pairing really struggled. …….In their last four games the Canadiens have been outshot 143-100. After going 10 games giving up only a total of 4 goals in the third period, the Canadiens gave up three in this game.
Worth Mentioning – ….It may be time to start re-thinking the Galchenyuk line. It produced one shot on goal. If the Canadiens are going to leave him at centre then at least give him the benefit of somebody like Semin on one of his wings. Certainly Brian Flynn wasn’t the answer. ….Paul Byron made his debut and was give just under 10 minutes of uneventful fourth-line ice time. He did no harm. All things considered, the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell and Devante Smith-Pelly (along with Byron) did what they usually have done which is log strong defensive minutes. Mitchell also scored his 5th goal thanks to some hard work from Smith-Pelly.…….Years ago, it became clear that Ken Dryden incapable of playing well at the old Los Angeles Forum and Scotty Bowman replaced him over the final years with Bunny Larocque. Michel Therrien might consider keeping Price out of games in Edmonton. ……The Plekanec line took nine of the Canadiens 22 shots on goals; 4 each from Gallagher and Pacioretty. …..Plekanec won 15 of 26 faceoffs (58%). ….Fleischmann, Pacioretty and Petry led with 3 hits each and the Canadiens outhit Edmonton 21-17, for whatever that’s worth.
In Reality – If panic is setting in, let’s do it in an orderly fashion. We are 11 games into the season and the Canadiens have a record of 9-2-0. The Canadiens are on a two game losing streak and have played sub par hockey in ten of their last 12 periods. Their two losses are on the road in Western Canada where things have never been easy. Adjustments are going to be made, perhaps even a trade as we move along. The time to pass judgment on where this team is, or might be is after the 20th game.
Up Next – The Canadiens now will try being swept in the Canadian West. Mike Condon will be getting his third career NHL start in Calgary as the Habs play their third back-to-back series of the season. The Canadiens have lost 7 of their last 8 in Calgary dating back to January 2002. The lone win came last October via a shootout.