Habs Edged By Caps In 3-2 Loss

Photo: Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Francois Lacasse / NHLI via Getty Images

Habs Edged By Caps In 3-2 Loss

In what was a back-and-forth scoring match, the Habs never ended up catching up, or surpassing the Capitals, and lost to Washington, 3-2. This despite massively out-shooting the Washington team.

This was not a bad game at all; the Canadiens came up against a brick wall in Braden Holtby, and were simply unable to beat him more than twice.

There are going to be losses. Let’s look at how this one played out.

First Period: Shots 10-6 Montreal

Goal: Tom Wilson (Assist: Brooks Laich)

The first period might have set the tone for the entire game, when Washington scored 2:26 in. Tom Wilson, with a sharp wrist shot, put the puck past Mike Condon and got Washington on the board for the lead through the entire first period.

In fact, the Habs tried valiantly to tie the game, but Braden Holtby was too good. He robbed Max Pacioretty with an incredible save, and would continue to do so throughout the period – with Paul Byron also getting shots on Holtby.

Not for lack of trying, but the Canadiens came up short in the first frame; their first power play (the only penalty called this period) yielded no advantage.

Second Period: Shots 17-7 Montreal

Goals:

  • Montreal: Lars Eller (Assists: Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec)
  • Washington: T.J. Oshie (Assists: Nicklas Backstrom, Matt Niskanen)

With that kind of shot difference, it would stand to reason that the Canadiens would dominate on the scoreboard as well. In fact, they never had a lead in this game.

At 12:08 of the period, Lars Eller scored a gorgeous goal – just 2 seconds after the 2nd Montreal power play expired – and drew the Habs even with the Caps. Eller, in fact, had a superb game, and had already been working hard to get this goal. He was rewarded when he managed to jam the puck through Holtby’s five-hole.

There was a review by the war room, but it was easily ruled a good goal, and the Habs were on the board.

It’s likely the referees were reviewing the goal to check for goaltender interference, but slow-motion replays on television were clear.

This was a mammoth moment for Lars Eller, his 7th goal of the season and a much-needed sigh of relief for the team.

The tie didn’t last till the intermission, however; at 19:16 (darn those late-period goals against!), T.J. Oshie was credited with a goal that, again, was reviewed by the referees. This time, it was to determine whether or not it was a high-stick on the play. Here’s the video, showing that there was no contact with the puck in mid-air.

With one power play, and one penalty kill, the Habs looked good on both. The power play looked incredible; the Canadiens dominated the puck in the offensive zone, keeping it in against all odds.

This between-the-skates move by P.K. Subban, to keep the puck in the zone, astonishes:

And though they didn’t score on this power play, it was just 2 seconds afterward that Eller got the Habs on the board, so their dominance carried over.

The penalty kill was also effective, as it has been – not only this season, but seasons past as well (It would just be great if the team could get its power play numbers up to its penalty kill effectiveness percentage).

The Habs went into the second intermission, down a goal, once again.

Third Period: Shots 8-6 Montreal

Goals:

  • Montreal: Brian Flynn (SHG; Assists: Paul Byron, Jeff Petry)
  • Washington: T.J. Oshie (Assists: Karl Alzner, Alex Ovechkin)

At 2 minutes into the period – where the Habs were desperately attempting to tie this game – Max Pacioretty was called for hooking. The team went on the penalty kill, and this time, it was more than effective: it was productive.

With the Habs battling for the puck in their zone, Paul Byron was able to take a shot on Holtby as the Canadiens rushed down the ice. Holtby kept it out, and play returned back to the Habs’ zone. This time, Byron managed to pass the puck out to Brian Flynn who was skating down the centre. Flynn got a breakaway, caught up to the puck and put it into the net for the equalizer.

Given as how it’s been Paul Byron getting the short-handed goals this season, it was natural that he would get a point on this one. The work it took for this line to get that puck out of their zone and take a couple of shots on net was indicative of how well they played this game.

But Washington got the last word. Almost halfway through the period, T.J. Oshie – once again – tipped the puck into the net on a long pass from Karl Alzner at the blue line. Condon had no chance on this one.

The team’s fate was sealed when Dale Weise took a late-period penalty with less than 2 minutes to play. This not only curtailed the team’s chances to go on the offense, it severely limited the empty-net time. They did pull Condon, but were mainly trying to keep the Caps from getting that empty netter.

Despite a period of continued shots on goal, dominant puck possession and smart plays, the Habs came up a goal short to end this one.

Some Thoughts:

  • It’s one of those games that, on paper, the Canadiens dominated; on the scoreboard – where it counts – they didn’t make it work. But because of the strength of their game, it’s hard to feel too down about the loss.
  • Considering the injuries this team is experiencing, it’s actually a testament to their skills that this game wasn’t a blow-out. The Capitals came into town looking for their 8th win in a row; they got it. This is a strong team, with extreme talent, and the fact that the Canadiens were only a goal short, it’s an acceptable loss.
  • (I still wish they’d gotten that tying goal – and, obviously – a game winner, but as Habs fans, we want every win, every point, every triumph. We’re greedy that way!)
  • Mike Condon had an excellent game, and is just continuing to show the consistent talent he exudes in nets.
  • Lars Eller had a monstrous game. But with all that he showed – not just this game, but consistently this season – he is being woefully underused. For instance, he should have seen some top-line power-play time. Though his goal was just shy of a power-play goal, he might have made the difference for the team on the other two power plays.
  • He also recorded 14:29 TOI where David Desharnais recorded a whopping 19:31. I think those times should have been reversed; Eller not only deserves it, he demonstrates an ability to persevere and get into the scoring positions more often than not.
  • Speaking of David Desharnais: coach Michel Therrien had reunited Pacioretty with DD in the last game, and chose to keep that line for this one as well. I will put on my (borrowed) armchair coach’s hat here: against a team like the Washington Capitals, with such skilled players as Oshie, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Latta and Brooks Laich – to name a few – the Habs might have been better served by their original lines as the season has evolved.
  • I shall remove the hat now – it isn’t my normal habit to second guess the coach, but I have lauded Desharnais’s performance this season mainly because of the line he has played, and how perfectly matched he is, with teammates and against like-skilled opponents. Against this team, that change did not make sense.
  • There did not seem to be any indications from Therrien that he will change the lines for the next game. Here’s hoping he does.
  • The Habs kept Alex Ovechkin to one shot in his 20+ minutes on ice. That, in and of itself, is really remarkable.
  • It wasn’t a bad game. It was actually really good. At one point, with all the close calls the Habs got on Holtby, I mused that my recap would read: “Washington scores, Habs come close…closer…closest…” That was the tone of this game. Holtby was simply impenetrable.
  • A loss never sits well. Then again, losing this way is one we can all get past. Agreed?
  • The New York Rangers lost as well – but the Capitals are now within 4 points of the Habs, and have moved into second position in the East. Time for our guys to generate some wins.

They’ll get their chance on Saturday, when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.

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