Once Montreal fans get over the disappointment of an overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs will be able to look at the bigger picture.
The Canadiens just completed a five game home-stand in which they picked up eight of a possible ten points (3-0-2). And they have taken three of four points in the first two games of arguably their toughest four game stretch of the season, with next week’s games in Nashville and Tampa yet to come.
The Canadiens are 8-2-2 since early January and their recent winning has elevated the team out of the wild card doldrums and into third place in the Atlantic Division and still only two points behind the second place Leafs.
The Canadiens have played Toronto twice this season. The Canadiens gutted both games outshooting them 36-26 in the first game and 38-32 in the second before losing both games in overtime. In the season opener Auston Matthews scored the game winner. In this game the overtime goal came from John Tavares. That’s the fact-of-life star power Toronto has that the Canadiens don’t. Still the Canadiens went toe-to-toe with Toronto again. Domi line was charged with checking the Matthews line and Matthews/Marleau/Kapanen were minus-2 for the night. But if it isn’t one line or one individual that will beat you, it’s another.
In hindsight, the game may have hinged on a battle of fourth lines. After the Canadiens took the 1-0 lead Toronto’s fourth line was on the ice against Chaput/Deslauriers/Peca for back to back first period goals just over two minutes apart. Toronto’s only other goal in regulation time was William Nylander midway through the third period. Not a very good night for a unit which was on the ice for under six minutes five-on-five. The Canadiens made a deal Saturday that will bring Dale Weise back to the fold but it seems to me he’s only a partial fix to a big problem.
Andrew Shaw missed 15 games with a neck injury. He didn’t miss a beat. Playing on the line with Domi and Tomas Tatar he was the Canadiens best forward and although rewarded with a goal and assist it was his play away from the puck that was most noticeable. Along with the two points and three shots on goal, Shaw registered three hits and 2:49 power play time. He started the play that led to Brendan Gallagher‘s go-ahead PPG in the third period.
Yes, the Canadiens scored that important third period power play goal but we can only give it a mixed review. The Canadiens got a four minute first period power play that had the potential to completely change the nature of the game. They managed only one shot on goal. Late in the third period and into the overtime the Canadiens again had a power play and again failed miserably. 9:45 of power play time and only five shots.
On the other side, the penalty killers were very good, limiting Toronto to just one shot over six minutes of man-advantage.
The key in NHL overtime is winning faceoffs. The Canadiens lost all three of them starting with the four-on-three to start and winding up with John Tavares beating Phillip Danault in the possession that led to the winning goal. Overall the Canadiens were successful on 44% of the draws.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….The Canadiens aren’t noted for being particularly physical but in this game they outhit Toronto 49-16.
….In the Corsi numbers the Canadiens had 52.9% puck possession. Toronto had eight high danger scoring chances to the Canadiens seven.
….Carey Price let in four goals for the first time in nine starts. I think he would like to have the Leafs third and the overtime goal back. Some sloppy defensive work also contributed to both of them. Price was very good during a prolonged period of Leafs offensive zone pressure after they had tied the game on the Nylander goal at 8:35 of the third period.
….Jeff Petry hit another goalpost early in the second period, his league-leading seventh goalpost of the season.
….Jesperi Kotkaniemi‘s goalscoring streak ended but he had two of the Canadiens seven high danger scoring chances including the only shot the Canadiens mustered during that four minute power play in the first period.
The Canadiens have the day off Sunday. They’ll practice at Brossard on Monday and Tuesday before flying to Nashville for Thursday’s meeting with the Predators. Then it’s Tampa Saturday and Florida Sunday before returning home for Columbus a week Tuesday.