After clinching a playoff spot against Chicago on Tuesday, Montreal headed back on the road to face off against the Ottawa Senators. Knowing that the Sens are not heading to the playoffs, many Habs fans were concerned that this game would not be played with the same intensity as the last. The concerns were proven to be right as both the Habs and Sens played a very loosey goosey type of game that led to multiple broken plays. This was apparent from the get go, when both sides seemed to be content in trying to beat the other with individual plays. Montreal was first to attack forcing Craig Anderson to make a save on Brian Gionta followed by a save on P.k. Subban, who skated with the puck from end to end before delivering a backhand. Rookie Stephane Da Costa was first to get a shot on Alex Auld for Ottawa but his shot came from a bad angle and Auld made the easy save.
Montreal controlled most of the play early with good shifts coming from all of their lines. Auld even got involved in the passing game when he made a pass that led to a scoring chance at the opposite end. Scott Gomez seemed determined to get the monkey off his back early as he took multiple shots on goal and tried to get something going. Needless to say, he did not get a goal as Anderson had a good view of the majority of his shots. The problem is that Gomez does not seem to want to stay in the dirty areas and ends up skating past a lot of scoring opportunities. This has been a problem all season for Gomez and until he decides to play more like Mathieu Darche and Gionta he will continue to struggle.
Ottawa attacked a little later forcing Auld to be sharp on a shot from Bobby Butler. After Auld made another good save with traffic in front of him, the Habs skated up ice with Subban taking a point shot. Subban’s shot was stopped and Michael Cammalleri got a piece of the rebound but Anderson made the save and the puck was cleared into the crowd. After a brief discussion, the referees determined that the puck was not deflected putting the Habs up by a man. Six seconds later the power play was cut short when Andrei Kostitsyn was called for slashing. The trend continued with both teams trying to beat the other with individual plays and it almost cost the Habs a goal at the very end of the period. With seconds left in the period, Subban decided that he would use his spin-o-rama move to avoid the forechecker in his zone. The play worked but he almost beat Auld in the process for the closest call of the period.
The Habs were once again first to attack in the second with Kostitsyn and Subban taking shots on Anderson. Both shots were stopped and Anderson followed them up with two more saves on Gomez and Kostitsyn. Ottawa started to respond with Chris Phillips taking a good shot on Auld. This was followed by more pressure from the Sens leading to Auld making a big save on Chris Neil from close range. After stopping Neil the puck sat in the crease where Da Costa tried to reach it, but the Habs did a nice job of swatting it away. Tom pyatt and Yannick Weber followed up with a good shift at the other end, when Anderson had to stop two deflections in front, one off of fellow teammate Filip Kuba and the other off of Weber. Tomas Plekanec then tried to cut in front and failed to beat Anderson but he did draw a penalty.
The Habs were very sloppy on this power play as they were out skated by the Sens and failed to take advantage. After failing to score on theirs, the Habs gave the Sens a chance when Weber got called for a trip. Ottawa did not look any better than the Habs did on their power play as they only managed two point shots with the extra man.
At 13:12, Montreal finally broke the tie when Gionta pounced on a rebound to beat Anderson. The play was started by Gomez who fed James Wisniewski for the point shot. The shot was stopped by Anderson and then deflected off of Darche before Gionta got the goal. Ottawa tried to respond but Auld was ready and made the saves on Ryan Shannon and Nick Foligno. Gionta almost got another seconds later when he and Gomez played a little give and go entering the Sens zone. His shot beat Anderson but not the post keeping it a one goal game. After the close call Ottawa controlled most of the play forcing Auld to make multiple saves to close the period, with his best save coming off of Da Costa shot from in close.
The Sens decided to get a little more physical in the third and this led to Jason Spezza getting the tying goal just 36 seconds in. Spezza created the play when he made a pass in front from the back of the net, he then proceeded to go to the side of the net where he was able to beat Auld clean from a deflected shot. Auld had to make another good save on a 3 on 2 before Pyatt skated into Ottawa’s zone going after a loose puck. Pyatt got to the puck along the boards first but was the hit from behind by Francis Lessard. The referees deemed it to be an illegal hit and Lessard got tossed from the game and received a five minute major for his efforts.
The Habs once again looked disorganized on their power play and Ottawa got the best chance when Brian Lee forced Auld to make back to back saves on him. It took almost the full five minutes for the Habs to get a chance of their own but their late flurry failed to get them a goal. With the power play now over Auld tried to slow things down freezing the puck in his zone. Neil then decided that he would try to stir things up when he gave Subban a quick jab to the chest. The Habs took exception to this and the end result was Gomez and Neil having a war of words with each other. The game continued to be sloppy as both teams made the goalies lives easy with simple shots.
This pattern continued until the 17:11 mark, when Butler showed some nice hands before beating Auld with his shot. The play was once again started by Spezza, this time off of a blind pass from the blue line. Butler took the pass and undressed Hal Gil while using him as a screen to get the goal. Montreal tried to reply and pulled Auld with about a minute to go. Their forecheck led to Ottawa icing the puck allowing Coach Martin to call a time out with less than 30 seconds to go. The time out worked as the Habs tied the game with only 11 seconds remaining on the clock. The goal came from a nice cross ice pass from Kostitsyn to Cammalleri. The latter accepted the pass and made no mistake to force overtime.
Overtime only lasted 1:16, when Kuba’s point shot beat Auld with Wisniewski falling in front of him. Even though the Habs lost, they guaranteed themselves a higher seed than last year. By earning the extra point the Habs are now going to finish the season in either 6th or 7th place. Montreal’s next and final stop of the regular season will come on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although the Leafs are not a playoff team, one can assume that Martin will want his troops to put in a much stronger effort in order to try and get his 600th victory and to carry some momentum into the playoffs.
HiD Three Stars
- Jason Spezza
- Brian Gionta
- Bobby Butler
HiD Turning Point
Montreal’s lack of pressure on their five minute power play allowed Ottawa to take this game.