Montreal Canadiens Fall In Lacklustre Effort Against Wild

Oct 17, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; The Minnesota Wild celebrate the win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; The Minnesota Wild celebrate the win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Montreal Canadiens lineup went through the blender, trying to reconfigure things with Kirby Dach out with a lower body injury. Michael Pezzetta draws in for his first game of the season, and Rafael Harvey-Pinard finds himself on the top line alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Alex Newhook slots in as the second line centre, and Josh Anderson swaps line with Tanner Pearson.

With Dach out, and no official diagnosis, the mood in the dressing room has to stay positive, although the PTSD from the injuries last year can creap up. The best way to stay positive is by playing their best hockey, and the performance of the players that earn extra minutes will be important. A skilled, deep Minnesota Wild roster will be the perfect challenge for game number three.

Here’s a look at how the lines were configured for the Habs showdown with the Wild at the Bell Centre.

Forwards

Caufield-Suzuki-Harvey-Pinard

Pearson-Newhook-Slafkovsky

Anderson-Monahan-Gallagher

Pezzetta-Evans-Ylonen

Defence

Matheson-Savard

Guhle-Kovacevic

Xhekaj-Harris

Samuel Montembeaukt got his second start of the season, with Cayden Primeau yet to play.

Here’s a brief review of how the game went, with goals and highlights. As usual it will be divided between the three periods.

First Period

The first five minutes were pretty back-and-forth, both teams were trying to establish their game plans. Samuel Montembeault had a scare, but luckily the puck was cleared out before it ever crossed the goal line. Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Rafael Harvey-Pinard looked fast, and Josh Anderson had the first penalty of the game. The penalty killing units played well.

With 11:17 to go, Ryan Hartman took a tripping penalty, and the Habs had their first power play of the night. Suzuki, Anderson, Caufield, Monahan and Matheson were the top unit. The Wild struck first with a shorthanded goal, courtesy of Brandon Dubaime, then Connor Dewar scored another on the same penalty kill.

The Canadiens failed to capitalize on a very poor first power play. With eight minutes to go, and down by two, the fourth line got some minutes to try and grind down the opposition. Marc-Andre Fleury was only tested twice with three quarter of the period to go, and the Wild remained in control.

Juraj Slafkovsky had a great opportunity, but instead of shooting on a two on one with Alex Newhook, he tried to make a pass. It drew a disappointed sigh from the Habs faithful. The frustration was obvious, but the team kept pushing.

Bad luck seemed to be the storybof the first period for the Canadiens. Arber Xhekaj had an opportunity to fire a point shot, but his stick folded under the pressure. Tanner Pearson had a great chance in the slot, but it appeared to be deflected by a Wild defender.

Second Period

To climb back into the game, the Canadiens will need to get more shots through, and that’s pretty obvious. David Savard mentioned making simpler plays as something that could help the team find a groove. With the crowd growing impatient of the stunned offence, the Habs took an ill-advised penalty.

To make things worse Kaiddn Guhle took a slashing penalty, giving the Wild a 5 on 3 for 1:24. Joel Eriksson Ek potted a pass from Mats Zuccarello to pad their lead. The lone positive was that the Canadiens penalty killers made a successful kill on the second on the ensuing 5 on 4.

Five minutes into the second frame, the Habs were held to just five shots, and in need of spark. It didn’t work out that way, and Cole Caufield went to the sin bin with 14:14 to go in the frame. Mike Matheson nearly had the crowd roaring, but his wrap around attempt failed.

Montembeault then made a great save, marking a couple of consecutive positive plays. Sean Monahan’s strength in the faceoff circle was much needed, and he came through a few times, helping to burn the clock. He also narrowly missed on a pass to Newhook that looked like a possible goal.

The inability to challenge Fleury lingered through another period, and too many penalties were working against them. Finally, at 10:13 of the period Tanner Pearson beat Fleury on just under his trapper to break the goose egg. The energy and momentum shifted, and Michael Pezzetta decided to get the crowd engaged; dropping the gloves with Duhaime, in what was a spirited bout.

With 5:51 to go, Eriksson Ek went to the box, and the power play had a chance to chip away at their two goal deficit. The Wild’s strong defensive play on the kill frustrated the Canadiens, and Slafkovsky took an unnecessary penalty. And just when things looked real gloomy, Kaiden Guhle left the ice and headed to the locker room with under three minutes to go.

Kirill Kaprizov scored the fourth goal of the night, regaining the Wild’s three goal lead. The wheels were looking pretty wobbly, and the hockey gods gave Montreal a break. Brandon Davidson got caught hooking Arber Xhekaj, and went to the box.

Unlucky bounces and strong defensive play disrupted the Habs power play, and kept the team squeezing their sticks too tight. Xhekaj finished his check late in the third, drawing the Wild’ players attention. A result of tensions boiling over, because of the frustration.

Third Period

The good news is the third period has arrived, and the Habs’ final chance to claw their way back into the game. With a 4-1 hill to climb, Xhekaj found himself in the penalty box to start the final frame. More penalties, that’s the way the third went, Pearson was another victim.

Eriksson Ek beat Monty, and padded the lead with another special teams marker. This Habs team looks much different than the one from the first two games. Unorganized and undisciplined, and the offence couldn’t click.

At 17:13 Newhook got a pass from Caufield and fired it home, to mark the teams second goal of the night. There were few positives, but Newhook staying consistent was one of them. Now the is off until Saturday, when the Habs have their first meeting of the season against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.