Words on a Friday morning to describe, not only the performance of the Canadiens in Las Vegas but the reputation they’ve developed within the NHL community over the last fourteen months.
In winning their third game in a row the Canadiens overcame the adversity of a second road game in twenty-four hours, defensive lapses plus shaky work from backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid to storm back with two late goals to tie the game before ultimately winning it in the first minute of overtime. It was the fourth time in thirteen games this season the Canadiens have trailed by two goals and come back to win; a tribute to the team’s never-say-die personality something that makes them a difficult opponent and highly entertaining.
The quality of the Danault/Gallagher/Tatar line is no longer a hidden secret around the NHL. Once again they set the tone when Danault scored the game’s first goal. They were front-and-centre again for the comeback. It was Tatar who started the comeback with less than six minutes left and, with goaltender out for the sixth attacker, Gallagher, operating in front of the crease as usual, tied it with just under two minutes remaining. The Danault line contributed three of the four goals in scored regulation time and now has scored 16 goals in the season’s first thirteen games.
This is the second time in less than a year that Danault and his linemates have authored an unlikely comeback in Las Vegas. Last December 22nd Danault completed a hattrick with 1:25 remaining, allowing Paul Byron to score the overtime winner.
I’m going to wait a while before making an assessment on backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid’s work. He’s in a new environment which includes an unfamiliar role as a backup. There was good-and-bad in his work against the Golden Knights. He was weak on three of the four Vegas goals and there were far too many fat rebounds his defensemen had to deal clean up. But there were also those important saves especially on Mark Stone and William Nylander that prevented the game from getting completely out of hand. (That’s the highlight reel second period glove save on Stone pictured to the left.)
ONE – TWO PUNCH
The Canadiens are scoring at a rate of 3.85 goals per game which ranks them fifth on the league. Thanks to the monumental leap in Jonathan Drouin’s play, the Canadiens have one of the league’s best one-two forward line punches. They may not be as solid defensively as the Danault line but members of the Domi/Drouin/Armia line has produced 17 goals this season. Drouin had another all around good night that included his seventh goal of the season . This one was another demonstration of his skill and finesse. Domi scored the overtime winner and, while failing to score, Armia had three very good chances.
….One way or another Jesperi Kotkaniemi was likely to sit this game out. It turned out he has a groin problem. It allowed 20 year old Nick Suzuki to start a game at his natural centre ice position for the first time. He fit right in and he seemed to make the slumping Artturi Lehkonen and Paul Byron look better. According to naturalstattrick.com the line’s puck possession stats were 69.23%. No reason to think Suzuki won’t centre the line again Saturday in Dallas.
….That said. For the seventh time in thirteen games Byron failed to get a shot on goal, something that has to ring some alarm bells. His season shots-on-goal total is eight.
….Ben Chiarot seems to be finally figuring out the Claude Julien system and becoming a good fit alongside Jeff Petry. As a matter of fact, he had a better game than Petry who had one of those rare frustrating off nights.
….The Canadiens are now three games over .500 at 7-4-2. The three game winning streak has moved them into third place in the tough Atlantic Division ahead of the likes of Tampa and Toronto.
The Canadiens have a shot at a perfect road trip. They’ll play in Dallas Saturday evening. It will be the Stars second game in less than 24 hours after playing Friday night at Denver. After winning only one of their first nine games, going into Denver Dallas has won four of the last five. After Dallas the Canadiens come home to face Boston Tuesday followed by a game at Philadelphia Thursday and then home again for Los Angeles on Saturday.