Habs were edged 3-2 by the Capitals Saturday afternoon, in a game that saw them picking up the pace only as the clock counted down in the third period. The first period – with a delay of game I’ll explain further – brought a bit of life to them as they tied the score, but the remainder of the game was a performance that yielded fewer shots on goal than they should have been taking.
David Desharnais was a healthy scratch.
Here’s how it unfolded:
After the Capitals struck first (too much time and space allowed by Montreal defense), there was a delay of game, due to something many of us had never seen before: a hole in what’s known as the “dasher board” – the strip of wood along the bottom of the boards. It was gouged by Matt Niskanen‘s skate, and a hole opened up.
The next few minutes saw referees kneeling on the ice, trying to fit a puck through the hole, and commentary on television broadcasts having some fun with the “mouse house” references.
Alex Ovechkin was seen fitting the blade of his stick into the hole, to demonstrate its danger to skaters, and at last, they started to remove the board.
It took about 12 minutes, while networks cut away – some going behind the scenes to show the work being done, and it was rather impressive to see what happens in cases like these.
As soon as play resumed, the Habs descended on Brayden Holtby, and Alexander Radulov evened the score with a beauty.
The Habs took a penalty at 11:19, when Tomas Plekanec was called for tripping. During the penalty kill, Max Pacioretty grabbed the puck and skated toward Holtby to try for a short-handed goal. The Capitals were able to recover the puck, skate toward the Habs zone, and Pacioretty skated off to the bench. Due to a bad change, the Habs were called for too many men, and Sven Andrighetto sat out. A 17-second 5-on-3 unfolded with no damage, and the Habs successfully killed off the second penalty.
Outshot again – by almost double – the Habs were lucky to finish this period tied.
Goal: Andre Burakovsky (Brett Connolly, Lars Eller), 9:26
The Capitals got a go-ahead goal almost halfway through the period, and despite two power plays, the Habs were unable to get on the board.
Shortly thereafter, Alexander Radulov got the puck into the net, but it was swiftly waved off, due to Max Pacioretty having collided with Holtby.
Here’s the goal:
The goal was called off, but once again Radulov had an amazing celebration pic.twitter.com/F9OUAt1fwh
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 4, 2017
Michel Therrien made the right decision not to challenge the goal; it might have gone either way, but this game did not yield a high pro-Habs refereeing rate.
The second period ended with the Habs down by one, and outshot again.
The Capitals got a 3rd goal shortly into the third period, putting the Habs on their heels. There was a spark of life in the team as Pacioretty scored (his 25th of the season) to pull within 1 of the Capitals:
Pacioretty goal makes it 3-2. Nice set up by Radulov. pic.twitter.com/JIdjx9cWa6
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 4, 2017
From then on, it seemed the Habs were bound and determined to tie the game. They got close, several times. A scrimmage in front of Holtby, as Shea Weber strategically shot the puck into the zone for the Habs forwards to chip at it, trying to get it past Holtby.
But Brayden Holtby – already a solid goaltender – did not allow another goal, and despite pulling Price, the game ended 3-2 for the Capitals.
Granted, the officiating was questionable, if not downright biased. The one solid case-in-point came with almost 13 minutes left in the 3rd, when Pacioretty tried to point out a blatant delay-of-game penalty that was not called. He attempted to discuss it with the referees, but no penalty was called.
Would it have guaranteed a Habs goal? Of course not. But the Canadiens at least deserved the chance, and this was an awful, obvious missed call.
Other missed calls included roughing on Sven Andrighetto (several times), and various other incidents.
We can’t put the blame on the referees – though there are times they mess up badly enough to be objectively responsible.
The Habs, in their second game being outshot (though not as badly – they got 22 shots this game, 16 their last), have to be more aggressive on net. Whatever the problem may be, that is a glaring factor which needs to be remedied quickly.
— Shayne Pasquino (@shaynepasquino) February 4, 2017
Radulov was accorded the second star of the game:
Alexander Radulov led #Habs in hits (5) tied for lead in shots (3) had a goal and an assist and was plus-2
— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) February 4, 2017
He’s a strong player, he’s all heart, and it’s clear he is thrilled to be out there, every game, wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge.
Hey, we have to look at the positives, folks.
Speaking of positives:
This game saw many children in attendance. The afternoon start time, as well as father-children day at the arena, we were treated to photos and videos of the players and their kids.
— Journal de Montréal (@JdeMontreal) February 4, 2017
— Peter Alper (@peteralper99) February 4, 2017
One more video to end this on a less-negative note: Sportsnet was covering the game; this video of the board malfunction is both enlightening and intriguing. Very impressed to see the crews take care of it. So often, we forget about all the elements that go into a safe, successful, and smooth game experience, and we don’t see all the behind-the-scenes factors that make it happen.
There was, as well, a call put out on Twitter by RDS, asking for Photoshops of that hole in the board. People got creative, and it was fun to see the results:
— Habs4life (@H_4_L) February 4, 2017
— Pierre Plante (@pierreplante17) February 4, 2017
— Keith Rowe (@krow71) February 4, 2017
Never let it be said that watching a hockey game is boring. The dasher board incident – its subsequent puns and jokes, photoshops and videos – provided quite the distraction, humor, and creativity.
That said, the Habs need to pick up their game. They play another afternoon game Sunday, against the Edmonton Oilers (or as so many pundits would say, “against Connor McDavid and the Oilers). It is another afternoon game, due to the Super Bowl, and puck drops at 1 p.m. Eastern Time.