This game might fit into the category of what we used to call “True Grit” often defined as an ability to stick to the challenge while dealing with problems and setbacks. Without doubt the Canadiens dealt with a myriad of problems and setbacks en route to their 6-5 shootout win in Toronto Saturday night
Down by three goals with less than fifteen minutes remaining the Canadiens roared back with four in a row to take a 5-4 lead; gave up a late Toronto goal that forced overtime and then won it 6-5 in the shootout.
They may be the most improbable two points the Canadiens will post this season. It was a game that ran the gamut from good to bad to worse to good again.
The Canadiens first two periods were a mess. Sloppy defense littered by multiple odd-man Toronto rushes.
And those penalties!!! The Canadiens took five of them in a row. Three of them came in sinful offensive infractions and for the second game in a row they also drew a ‘too many men’ bench minor.
William Nylander scored on the power play to make it 4-1 with 14:44 left in the game. Jonathan Drouin scored a fluke goal eleven seconds later. And a minute later Brendan Gallagher scored and suddenly it was a one goal game. Then it was Kasperi Kapanen throwing a broken stick at Jeff Petry which resulted in the tying penalty shot goal. Phillip Danault make it 5-4 before Auston Matthews second goal of the game forced the overtime.
ONE FOR THE COACHING STAFF
Claude Julien stirred things up in the third period by making a couple of line changes. Most notably he moved Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron up to the Max Domi line. It paid off thanks a Domi rush and Drouin capillising with a goal only a few seconds after Toronto had made it 4-1. At least here it should be noted for the second consecutive game, while he was not dominant through the first period of the game, his end-game report card was positive. And Domi was the Canadiens best forward, by far.
One could make an argument that, despite giving up five goals, Carey Price was the Canadiens first star. For most of the first two periods he was left to his own devices. There was an eleven minute stretch in the second period where the Canadiens failed to get a shot on goal. Price bore the brunt of that.
When it counted in the overtime he stopped both John Tavares and Mitch Marner on breakaways and capped his night by stopping Matthews, Marner and Tavares in the shootout while the Canadiens were countering with Byron (who scored) and Jordan Weal.
Shea Weber and Victor Mete simply couldn’t get on the same page in Carolina on Thursday. In this game they had it together. Mete took a hit in his own end to make a play that started the rush that resulted in the Max Domi’s opening goal. Mete was calm and in control and Weber was back in form. He woke Tavares up with a heavy check in the first period. The Canadiens had five goals scored on them. Mete and Weber were each plus-3.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….This comes under the WTF column. The complaint about last season’s power play was the dependence on Shea Weber which made it predictable. So when the Leafs were penalized in the overtime, Kirk Muller drew his players around him to map out how to handle the 4-on-3. The plan? Give the puck to Weber. The Leafs were waiting for him. He took four shots. Two on-goal; the other two missed. In every instance the Leafs defence was waiting for it.
….Hard lessons for the rookies. Cale Fleury made a bad clear that led to Auston Matthews scoring Toronto’s first goal. Nick Suzuki had his pocket picked by Trevor Moore who set up the second Toronto goal. Not something to obsess upon. They still did more good things than bad.
….A little lost in all of this is the fact that Brendan Gallagher had seven shots on goal out of and led the team with three points (1 goal, 2 assists). Just another night of the office.
….Two games into the season and already twice penalized for too-many-men on the ice. It drove Julien to distraction last season when they were hit ten times with the infraction. To be sure there’ll be some discussion behind closed doors about bench communication.
The Canadiens were given a 4-on-3 advantage in the overtime. Kirk Muller held a lengthy meeting with his players to map out strategy. The complaint about last year’s power play was the dependence on Shea Weber. The goal this season to spread out the shooting responsibility. The result, through the first 1:50 of the power play, Weber took all four shots; 2 on-goal and two missed.
…..From the stats sheet – Jeff Petry led the Canadiens with 14 shot attempts – 7 on-goal. Weber took 13 shots, eight of them on-goal. Seven of Brendan Gallagher’s twelve shot attempts were on-target. Gallagher had a three point night – 1 goal, 2 assists. Petry’s 28:02 led the both teams in ice-time. Phillip Danault took 25 of the game’s 72 faceoffs, winning 10 of 15 (60%).
The Canadiens get three days off before they play in Buffalo Wednesday night. Thursday night, the home opener against Detroit followed by the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues next Saturday at the Bell Centre.